By Margarita Nahapetyan
Black color may be associated with thoughts of desolation and hopelessness for some individuals, especially now, during hard times of global recession, but, in contrast to them, it is definitely a positive color for Comme des Garçons' designer Rei Kawakubo, who is using black color to introduce "positive energy" in difficult times - by creating a new collection inspired by the color.
Comme des Garçons is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. In honor of the brand's jubilee, the Japanese institution is introducing a temporary brand simply called "Black," which is scheduled to launch in key boutiques all across the world over the coming weeks and will contain iconic Comme styles - recreated in black.
"The department stores have gone crazy with this idea," said Adrian Joffe, chief executive officer of Comme des Garçons International. Joffe added that that initial sales in Japan are already 50 per cent ahead of what has been planned. He attributed the huge success to affordable prices, which are roughly half, compared to the company's other collections, and a "speed merchandising" strategy that will see new items arriving roughly every six weeks. Comme des Garçon's 15 brands generated 2008 revenues of $180 million, and Black represents its most volume-driven venture to date. The CEO said that quantities are in hundreds instead of dozens.
Rei Kawakubo first created her label in 1969, and regardless her fiercely independent style and point of view has built a multi-million-dollar empire. In spite of the fact that Comme des Garçons translates to "Like the Boys," the philosophy behind the name has nothing to do with feminism. "I really felt that I was on my own," Ms. Kawakubo said, and added that her creations had nothing to do with her being a female. "I am not a feminist. I was never interested in any movement as such. I just decided to make a company built around creation, and with creation as my sword, I could fight the battles I wanted to fight."
Every collection she starts is with one word, the designer said of the creative process. "I can never remember where this one word came from. I never start a collection with some historical, social, cultural or any other concrete reference or memory. After I find the word, I then do not develop it in any logical way. I deliberately avoid any order to the thought process after finding the word and instead think about the opposite of the word, or something different to it, or behind it."
Also on the schedule for Comme des Garçons the upcoming month is an exhibition at Colette and a collaborative work with Vogue Nippon. Working in partnerships and collaborations are a common thing in the world of Comme des Garçons. It is known that Kawakubo has already teamed up with popular designer brands, such as Levis, Lacoste, and Speedo, as well as with Italy's 10 Corso Como boutique. And yet, the brand's image has been as strong as it can possibly be over the years.
The new collection will present the best-selling silhouettes in popular fabrics and finishes, and perennial prints such polkadots, gingham and checkerboard. Prices range from about 60 to 105 euros ($84 to $147) for T-shirts, and up to about 250 to 445 euros ($350 to $623) for jackets.