Comme des Garçons Expands Paris Boutique and Goes Big, Graphic

by | Oct 2, 2023 | DESIGNER AND LUXURY, FASHION | 0 comments

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Rei Kawakubo is constantly looking for the new; it’s how she designs her business, her clothes, and her retail establishments.

Only a few days after debuting one of her happiest, most vibrant collections in years, the Japanese fashion trailblazer unveiled an expanded Comme des Garçons flagship here. Its four levels are divided by a massive white column made of what the brand calls “amoeba” shapes, but which could also be compared to a space shuttle’s exhaust system.

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Kawakubo’s numerous collections are displayed in tiny, staggered compartments, breaking the monotony of paging through lengthy rails of clothing, behind a glossy red door at 56 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré that slides open like a spacecraft.

Kawakubo’s racks are all out of alignment, which is precisely what she intended.

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In an exclusive interview on Monday afternoon, she referred to her journey as “a voyage of discovery,” while maintenance workers cleaned steel stairwells and salespeople stuffed flawlessly folded knitwear, gleaming purses, perfumes, and eye-catching wallets into the amoeba-like columns’ grooves.

While navigating past collections of white amoebas, shoppers take sinuous routes that conceal their location. The sparkling white areas lack any straight boundaries and even a single piece of marble.

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“I wanted to create a place where people could experiment, investigate, and do “Discover rooms one by one,” Kawakubo remarked, her husband Adrian Joffe, head of Comme des Garçons International, translating her Japanese.

“I’m not sure if people are actually satisfied with online purchasing… She emphasized that she views the retail spaces at Comme des Garçons as vital as the merchandise, adding that she believes the joy of shopping is in discovering things on your own. “I wanted to make the spaces as interesting and as brand-new as all the clothes that I make.”

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The new site is around 50% bigger and far more visible than the former one, which was hidden away in a courtyard off the same upscale street for almost 22 years.

The larger, street-front site houses a number of lines that were previously only offered at Comme des Garçons’ flagship in New York City’s gallery-filled Chelsea neighborhood and its historic Aoyama shop in Tokyo, which was recently renovated and increased in size.

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These include the popular Play collection in cashmere and Comme des Garçons Girl. These “Aoyama specials” are identified on the labels by an underline.

Additionally, Comme des Garçons furniture, which hasn’t been on the market in more than 30 years, will only be sold at the Paris boutique. For the first time, three metal chair designs that were first made in 1987 will be offered in red. Prices start at 3,000 euros.

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FRANCOIS GOIZE/WWD

The 7,500 square feet of the apartment are decorated in red. With its 160-foot-long undulating red fiberglass wave emanating from the ceiling and the walls, Kawakubo described the glossy red fiberglass covering the walls backing the main stairway and the cash wrap as a holdover from the previous location.

Kawakubo claimed that she is unable to recollect the inspiration behind that strikingly colored feature, but in 1988, she declared red to be “the new black” following a pioneering scarlet collection.

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One of Comme des Garçons’ Pocket ideas, which mostly houses its Play range, is still housed in the small courtyard area next to the former store.

On Monday, Kawakubo led a passerby outside to inspect the façade of the building that once housed Burberry. Around the enormous front windows, all of the checkerboard logo had been removed, revealing steel backing that the designer had left in place.

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Given Kawakubo’s dislike of anything as simple as hanging a dress in the window, the chairs on exhibit behind the glass conceal the fact that this is a fashion business.

The amoeba-like fixtures, according to the designer, were inspired by a desire to create “abstract furniture” and break away from the typical retail store’s straight walls, angular shelves, and rectangular display cases.

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The Comme des Garçons Black collection is shown among raw wooden fixtures with curved, skeleton designs that purposefully misalign the racks. Every floor is made of concrete.

In addition to working with a construction company, Kawakubo creates full-scale models of selling floors in Tokyo so she may experiment and perfect the volumes, perspectives, and customer journey for every retail location.

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Because “a lot of people with good eyes come to Paris,” Kawakubo said it was crucial to hold her Paris flagship to the same standards as her Tokyo and New York flagships.

According to Joffe, there is a sizable outside area that extends from the boutique’s second floor and will eventually include a café that mostly serves tea and pastries.

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A variety of art galleries, embassies, the Élysée Palace, and the Bristol Hotel can be found on the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré. The iconic Hermès flagship, Brunello Cuccinelli, Lanvin, Roger Vivier, Tod’s, Bottega Veneta, Chanel, and, eventually, an Alaa flagship, are just a few of the well-known fashion nameplates that are still in operation.

In the meantime, Kawakubo and Joffe intend to shatter the rules of retail once more when the Dover Street Market branch in Paris eventually debuts in March 2024 in the fashionable and thriving Marais neighborhood.

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The vast 17th-century town house at 35-37 Rue des Francs Bourgeois will serve as its new home. Joffe has been running it as a sort of cultural hub for the past two years, holding a merry-go-round of exhibitions, happenings, musical performances, brand installations, and retail spaces.

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