Comme Tous Les Autres: Losing An Edge?
The confusingly French titled Japanese fashion label, Comme Des Garçons, has long been a staple of quirky androgyny. Literally translated as “like the boys”, it uses this phrase as a sort of mantra for design.
Bias cuts, predominantly monochrome colourways, suit-inspired tailoring have made it part of a much greater movement – the androgynous shift. Androgyny has always been at the crux of high-fashion. Playing with gender stereotypes when you’re working with curveless skeletal figures is easy and striking. Androgyny changes, though, over time. In the 80s you had power-dressing – women stole strong suit tailoring and wouldn’t give it back. In the 90s came heroin-chic – waifish boys and girls slinking around merging into one-another’s depressingly back aura.
Comme Des Garçons became part of the revival of mixed-gender strength. It was tailoring and strong lines, meets slightly grunge. A happy medium. Plus design credibility and attitude of power-dressing, minus the entropy and despair of the heroin-chic culture. Brilliant.
BUT. Are they starting to lose their grip?
Russ Karablin, the man behind The Cut, Rebel Ape and Natural Born, is challenging “haute” with his subversive (read: funny) SSUR and Comme Des Fuck Down lines. It’s got to be hard for a brand, even one so couched in cool, not to feel a little bit undermined.
On top of this, they’ve also got to worry about the ubiquitous “becoming mainstream” debate. What does it do to your brand’s “cool” factor when you start being absolutely everywhere? Once confined to imperious Parisian beatniks and the smug of Tokyo, now Comme Des Garçons is pretty much everywhere. Including on Justin Timberlake – who treads that fine line of cool. He’s got a bit of cred, especially with his new side-sweep and cos he’s mates with Jay-Z, but let’s not forget his perma-perm and N’Sync days. If he’s wearing a CDG, you know there’s a whole host of little girls begging their mummy and daddy to get them one for Christmas.