Everybody’s Talking About | Comme des Garcons for H&M

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TOKYO, Japan and STOCKHOLM, Sweden – Some H&M collaborations of the past (Roberto Cavalli, Viktor & Rolf) were more memorable for the pre-launch buzz and subsequent hysteria around the world than they were for the clothes themselves. So ever since Rei Kawakubo announced her upcoming Comme des Garcons collection for H&M, fashionistas have been wondering whether Kawakubo will bring some of the best of Japanese avant-garde fashion to the masses without diluting her signature style.

Well the wait is almost over. W Magazine wrote about the collaboration in its September issue and on Friday, Fashionista.com posted the first photos of the complete collection. In typical lightening speed, the blogosphere has been passing judgment and at first glance, it seems many CDG fans are underwhelmed by Kawakubo’s efforts, while mainstream customers don’t quite get it.

Over at Cafe Mode, France’s pre-eminent fashion blog (which is now owned by the French daily, L’Express), blogger Geraldine Dormoy says that she will show up on the day the collection debuts, but mostly to see who will actually be buying the clothes. That’s not a ringing endorsement either.

It makes one wonder why Kawakubo decided to do this collaboration at all. It was always going to be tough to translate CDG’s directional, deconstructed aesthetic for mass market tastes. And, since the brand’s many loyal fans are already willing to drop some serious money for a piece of Comme’s coolness and since there are already more accessibly priced Comme des Garcons pieces available for those with tighter budgets, the target market for this collection is unclear.

Could the basis for the collaboration be publicity and brand building? Roberto Cavalli worked with H&M to build brand awareness amongst younger customers and attract private equity investment. Similarly, Viktor & Rolf’s designed for H&M to establish themselves in the high-street fashion consciousness (and they recently parlayed this into an investment from Diesel’s Renzo Rosso). Kawakubo, on the other hand, is notorious for being reclusive and media-shy, and it is unlikely that she is looking for investment (as her business is self-financed and she seems unwilling to pander to private investors).

That leaves the design fee. In addition to the massive PR boost, Stella McCartney reportedly also earned a huge design fee for designing for H&M. Could Kawakubo be looking for some quick cash injection from H&M to maintain her financial independence?

The real answer probably has more to do with Kawakubo’s knack for collaborating with others. She recently unveiled a collaboration with Louis Vuitton, and she has built her own collective of designers under the CDG banner, including Junya Watanabe and Tao Kurihara.

In any case, it’s all speculation at this stage as to how the collection will perform, but as more and more ‘hi-low’ collaborations are announced and the novelty has begun to wear off, designers should be very clear about the objective of such collaborations, and ensure that the rewards are commensurate with the risks. We’ll see how it all turns out when CDG for H&M his the floors in November.

UPDATE: IMAGES FROM FASHIONISTA.COM REMOVED AT THE REQUEST OF LAFORCE+STEVENS ON BEHALF OF H&M.

Photo courtesy of W Magazine.

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5 comments

  1. A shame, fashionista.com had to remove the photos at H&M’s request. Which I don’t understand…why release photos of the collection if you’re going to remove them afterwards? I’m assuming this is perhaps to encourage people to buy W Magazine to see the photos themselves, or wait until H&M’s website is revamped to showcase the collection and print ads like it was for Roberto Cavalli’s. For CDG, I’m not sure if the deconstructive designs will win any new fans for Kawakubo, but I think for people who are willing to step out of their comfort zone they might find a few pieces they might like. I’m sure it’ll win over some Japanese fashion fanatics out there who are just waiting for a retailer to carry some clothes from a Japanese designer at affordable mass consumer prices.

    Dahlia from Montreal, QC, Canada
  2. This clothing is now looking silly and out of step with women’s priorities. Who’s everybody?

    artefact212 from Gloversville, NY, United States
  3. Just looking at these pictures, I can see where consumers not familiar with her designs would be put off, because the model’s face alone is harsh and not all that aspirational. The clothes are also styled in a way that they wouldn’t understand. I would definitely want to take a closer look at the clothes and actually buy something because I respect her designs (sadly, no H&M in Hawaii). But I think that these pieces can stand alone and can be incorporated into the closets of non-CDG fans because they have unusual touches that make them special…. or that just could be the CDG fan in me speaking.

  4. The items seem delightful, and my first impression, after viewing the images in full hours before seeing them on the BoF or reading a single descriptive word, was that this was a balanced offering for H&M to taunt the public and torment the cdg purist. If I were Rei Kawakubu, my justification for making this collection would be to shake up the cgd faithful, not enough to offend or scare them away, just enough to come up for air.

    Randall from Hayward, CA, United States
  5. laura Ashley on speed.

    t from Toronto, ON, Canada