The limited-edition Happy Holidays collection of Comme des Garçons has always been a quirky take on the brand’s idea of what may be desired during the festive shopping and gifting season. This year, they’ve roped in a jolly bunch they call “friends”
As much as I can remember, the Comme des Garçons store here at The Shopping Gallery Hilton, in its 7-year history, has never hosted a party in the morning. I, too, have never set foot in CDG, or the Hilton Hotel for that matter, a good hour-and-half before noon. But, CDG is not exactly known to go by social/marketing conventions, and so there I was, bracing a bad-hair-day as a result of the rain, to be in the company of both Comme fans and hype junkies.
This morning, we were here for the launch of CDG’s annual (year-end) holiday collection that are mostly issued in limited quantities. Friends and Comme des Garçons—as they called it this year—is CDG collaborating with some of the most popular or “iconic” or noteworthy names in fashion today. That, to CDG, means Burberry, Maison Margiela, Jean Paul Gautier, Simone Rocha, Craig Green, Walter Van Beirendonck, Marine Serre, Stussy (the only non-designer label), and, inevitably, Gucci.
The quickly depleting rack of the Happy Holidays collection
By 10am, a queue started to form outside the CDG store, with two lines organised for the VIPs/media and general public. Being neither important nor influential, I joined the latter. Unknown to many in the line, the same collection was also made available at Dover Street Market Singapore, where a friend happily reported there was no queue. When I texted another about my surprise at the long wait here, he replied, “Er, where have you been? People are spending on designer stuff like there’s no tomorrow.” Where, indeed, have I been?!
In the line that was moving very slowly, I doubt there were that many thinking about the next day. Only the present mattered, and at present, it was to get in. When we did, it was all there, right before us: A sort of island was set up near the entrance for the clothes to inhabit, and organised around pillars saturated with the participating brand names. I didn’t think it would be this major a grab fest, but 20 minutes after the start time of half past ten, many of the items were near sold out, such as the Marine Serre tees. But, as shark keepers know, not every elasmobranch gets its fill at feeding time.
Left: the cheeky graphics of Walter Van Beirendonck. Right: each customer was being assigned one service staff
Launched in DSM Ginza last week and accompanied by a striking, thematic window and in-store display, the Happy Holidays series (that had previously included homage to emojis) this year is, for the first time, in collaboration with so many names—nine in all. CDG is no stranger to collaborations, but it is unusual that it pairs with this many brands at one go, under a single seasonal/promotional event. Adrian Joffe, president of CDG and husband of Rei Kawakubo, told the media that “Rei does not enjoy two captains on a ship.” Which is not unexpected and simply means, this time, the selected brands gave CDG one item that represents their respective house and Ms Kawakubo “interpreted” them.
These are basically items selected for maximum sell-through. T-shirts dominate, which is hardly surprising as we know that tees sell very well for CDG (and DSM). Many women were eyeing the Marine Serre pieces, with her signature repeated-crescent print on sleeves and back. I had my sight set on the Maison Margiela tops, which were reinterpretations of their recognisable AIDS charity T-shirt—one in long sleeves, the other as a tunic, both with a crew neck for the first time.
The interior of the special-issue paper bag for the Happy Holiday 2018 collection
By now, I had given the clothes a close enough examination and had started looking at the people so enamoured with what they were seeing and touching. It seemed to me that these weren’t the typical CDG customer, who, a staff informed me, “usually prefers the runway collections”. I overheard someone saying to his shopping companion that most of the people who had queued were “professional re-sellers”. It was a little disconcerting to me that CDG merchandise is now treated with the same strictly-for-profit approach of those who ‘consume’ Off-White and its ilk.
Ten minutes after I left the Hilton Hotel, at about 11.09 am, a WhatsApp message arrived, telling me that the only bag in the Happy Holidays collection sold out. I was not surprised. The bag, based on a CDG top seller—brown paper bag encased in plastic—that is strapped with Gucci’s signature red-and green-ribbon, was the most talked about when I was in the queue, only about 60 minutes earlier. I also overheard a staff telling a concerned customer that “we should have enough stock”, which, as it turned out, was sufficient to last less than an hour. When I told a friend later how quickly the bag sold out, he said imperturbably, “If you cannot afford Gucci prices, this is the next best thing—by association.”
The Comme des Garçons Happy Holiday 2018 collection is available at CDG, The Shopping Gallery Hilton and Dover Street Market Singapore, Dempsey Road. Photos: (top) Comme des Garçons and (others) Zhao Xiangji