The 6 Stages of Understanding Comme des Garçons
As told by a collector with 100 CDG pieces for sale in her vintage NYC store and over 20 years of experience.
Resurrection Vintage at 45 Great Jones Street is built like a railroad apartment and is as narrow as a subway car. Yet, when we visited, we didn’t feel claustrophobic—in fact, our hearts swelled when we saw the vintage Comme Des Garçons on their golden clothing racks. A week before we arrived, there were exactly 100 pieces, but with the excitement of the Met Gala and general cult following of Comme, Resurrection was selling things fast.
Katy Rodriguez, co-founder of the vintage hot spot (visited by Kate Moss the first day they opened shop in ’96 out of an old funeral parlor in the East Village), has loved Comme des Garçons ever since she first laid eyes on one of Rei Kawakubo’s designs. What exactly was it? “I don’t remember! All I remember is just absolutely loving it.” The fact that her first memory is of a feeling rather than a garment expresses what Comme des Garçons is telling—the brand isn’t about clothes as much as the way the clothing makes you feel. Walking through the store, we fell in love repeatedly (first with a three-tiered skirt and finally with a deconstructed blazer). Speaking with Katy made us realize that falling in love with a piece of Comme des Garçons isn’t a transaction, but rather an emotional roller coaster. And Resurrection’s collection put us through it.
First, there’s confusion on how to wear it.
Just looking at the names of Rei’s collections, which range from “Mud-Dyed” to “Abstract Excellence” and “Bad Taste” to “Kaleidoscope,” is enough to realize nothing is off-limits. Nothing, that is, except for convention, which is the only thing Rei’s clothing isn’t. The result is some initial confusion (unless your name is Katharine Zarrella) as to how to wear most of her pieces, which, in the pursuit of beauty, can be unflattering and unruly, often covered in bumps or layers.
Then, gratitude when you realize there is truly nothing else like it.
The debate on whether fashion is art will never have an answer. Some designers consider themselves artists while others don’t. Rei Kawakubo’s work, though, seems to exist in an amazing realm all its own. “I’m not even sure if it matters if it’s fashion or art; it just matters if it’s great. The problem is there is not a lot of great out there. There is a lot of fashion and there is a lot of art, but not a lot of great,” Katy laments.
You’ll feel jealousy when seeing someone cool wearing it with confidence.
In the ’80s, models like Paulina Porizkova and Christina Brinkley were everywhere, except on the Comme des Garçons runway. Instead, they used who Katy described as “really cool-looking models” who wore Rei’s avant garde like it was a plain white tee. “It was like...if you saw someone wearing that stuff, you’d say, ‘That must be a cool person.’” Katy mentions how Comme des Garçons wouldn’t look out of place on someone like Basquiat (and she’s right; he walked their runway in ’87).
And excitement when you realize you, too, can be cool!
Comme des Garçons is French for “like some boys,” but it isn’t just for some boys or even for some girls; it’s for everyone. Even though Katy loves Alaïa, she didn’t feel like the girl who could wear his clothes. With Comme, it was the opposite: “It’s so thorough, and it’s so complete. You are able to be totally enveloped in it, but you get to be yourself still. You don’t feel like you’re supposed to be somebody else.”
Then, crushing sadness thinking about how different fashion feels now.
Katy talks about how, behind the colors and the fabrics and the shapes, fashion is an emotional thing: “even if you don’t really care, it’s still a decision, a choice, and there is emotion there.” Yet designers whose work is ingrained in emotion is getting harder to find. “What has happened in the fashion industry is, they’ve stripped everything of its emotion. There aren’t a lot of designers like that left. I think when people make those emotional connections, it’s with someone like Yves Saint Laurent or Rei.”
And finally excitement again….
When you remember the following:
1. The Rei Kawakubo exhibit opens on May 4th at the MET.
2. Resurrection has an ever-expanding archive when you want to add a piece of CDG history to your closet (that’ll look just as at home out in the streets as it does in a museum).