“I’m not an artist, I’m a businesswoman,” Kawakubo says. “Well, maybe an artist/businesswoman.”
There's Comme, and then there's Comme Comme.
With over twenty labels under the Comme des Garçons umbrella (known affectionately as Comme), one can hardly keep track let alone differentiate one diffusion line from another. This seems to be a common branding strategy adopted by the big Three - Issey Miyake and Yohji Yamamoto both have at least five lines under their names. But I digress. Today's sermon from the Gospel of Rei will shed some light on one of them - called Comme des Garçons Comme des Garçons, henceforth known as Comme Comme.
So what exactly is Comme Comme? Unlike Junya Watanabe, Tricot or Tao lines, Rei Kawakubo is named the head designer so essentially one is still buying into her vision. More specifically, it is an extension of Comme's offering that has been mellowed down. If Comme is the Friday night acid trip in some rando's basement, Comme Comme is the slightly tipsy wine date next Tuesday. These clothes are targeted towards fans of Comme who don't enjoy being gawked at but still would like to buy into the aesthetics, or for days when the hardcore clans aren't in the mood to look like crumpled pieces of paper. Basic staples are produced every season, like drop crotch trousers and cutaway jackets made of boiled polyester.
“We never liked the idea of diffusion because it kind of waters things down. It dilutes the idea. When you think of every single diffusion line, the name is shorter: Ralph Lauren becomes RL, Donna Karan becomes DKNY. When we did a second line for Comme des Garçons we deliberately made the title longer — Comme des Garçons Comme des Garçons — because it wasn’t a diffusion line, it was an extension: the thing that comes off the real thing, so you keep the spirit. The concept behind it is not lesser than the first Comme des Garçons line.” - Adrian Joffe, President of Comme des Garçons
While I personally think that Mr. Joffe is just arguing semantics, Comme Comme does come across as a diffusion line - albeit one that plays an important role in complementing the mainline. Aside from recurring staples, Comme Comme reproduces various signature looks from older mainline collections, usually made in wool and polyester in dark colourways. I'd like to think this is Rei's way of thanking her fans for their support by giving them access to archival signature silhouettes, and/or another money-milking strategy, which I'm not ungrateful for. Below are just some examples I've pulled out from FW2014 collection.
Comme Comme is by no means a new line because it was allegedly renamed from an even older line - Robe de Chambre - another diffusion line created in the early 80s (source). However, I have found several Robe de Chambre pieces that were produced in early 2000, so whether or not that statement is accurate remains to be seen. Regardless, the consensus is that Comme Comme was conceptualised some time in the 90s.
The earliest Comme Comme runway show can be traced back to mid 2000, but if anyone can find anything earlier than 2007 please let me know. In the meantime please enjoy this video from Fall 2012.