The name Comme des Garçons means ‘like the boys’, and was inspired by lyrics by the French chanteuse Francoise Hardy. As Vogue commented, it was chosen because it sounded good, ‘but it proved ironically apt for designs that challenged the traditional feminine ideal.
Her first boutique opened in 1975 in Tokyo and by 1981 Comme des Garcons was showing in Paris. At around the same time, Comme des Garçons moved into fragrance, and has become known for breaking rules in the fragrance world, just as they have with fashion: taking a single ingredient (such as incense, or leaves, or sherbet), and interpreting it in myriad ways.
They’ve demonstrated that unconventionality through the design of the bottles, which are sculptural (and asymmetrical), and fit so comfortably into the curve of a palm: the iconic ‘pebble’ bottle, first created for Comme 2, which has seen numerous collectors’ items: ‘Glitter’, ‘I Love You’, Happy Pillow’ and more – and which became the bottle ‘blueprint’ for so many subsequent launches.
These creations have become as collectible, by Comme des Garçons-lovers, as the clothes ever were, including the coveted fragrance – with its plain black and white logo – for the fragrance specifically created for Dover Street Market, the much-talked-about concept store (now on London’s Haymarket). This was conceived by Rei Kawakubo because ‘I wanted to create a kind of market where various creators from various fields gather together and encounter each other in an ongoing atmosphere of beautiful chaos: the mixing up and coming together of different kindred souls who all share a strong personal vision…’ There are now Dover Street Market boutiques in Tokyo’s Ginza district, and in New York’s SoHo, too.
Rei Kawakubo says , ‘a fragrance should always be worn for your own pleasure, not necessarily to seduce. It’s not conceived for a man or a woman: it’s “non-gender”, only for the one who loves it.’
So, gender is blurred and everything is shareable. And in each new ‘Series’ collection, there’s a play on a theme, notably Blue Invasion: incense once again, artfully combined with woods and spices and aromatic notes, playing with temperature in that way clever noses have of coming up with fragrances that are cool yet warm at the same time.
Then there’s Wonderwood: ‘a positive overdose of woods, woody notes and synthetics – wood gone mad’ is how they describe it. And Floriental– which ironically isn’t really floral or Oriental, in reality. Floriental opens warm and spicy, with cinnamon and carnation spice, buzzing actively with the boldness of pepper and cloves. Immediately, a distinct smokiness comes through, giving the impression of slowly burning embers dusted with a delightful topping of autumnal spices… Supported by a subtle brew of hot plum tea…
So it really isn’t hard to see why true perfumistas always keep one eye on what’s happening at Comme des Garçons: always unexpected, always bold and often revolutionary…