CDG IG Live: Hmmm…

Broadcast at the odd hour of nine this evening, CDG’s first IG Live here was hosted by former radio DJ Rosalyn “Rozz” Lee, who chirpily promised “a great 30 minutes”. Was it?



It is hard to imagine Comme des Garçcons taking to Instagram Live, just as it is impossible to frame Rei Kawakubo within a TicTok screen. Yet, CDG did go onto the social media video platform via Club 21’s IG page. The Japanese brand, despite finally joining IG (in September 2015), avoids using branded hashtags or posting IG Stories. So, it aroused our curiosity when it was announced only two days ago via Club 21, that CDG would be conducting an “IG Live preview” of the their new collection, and that viewers get to win a pair of Comme des Garçcons X Vans Graffiti sneakers. The giveaways (including another ten pair of socks) were a surprise to us since we do not associate the brand with D&D-style lucky draws.

It was then revealed that the host of Weird Food Diaries, Rosalind “Rozz” Lee, would be presenting the event. That, to us, is an odd choice. Ms Lee is known for her high spirits and exuberance, and opinions that can be best described as strong. CDG is a lot more austere and serious, and admittedly, just as unwavering. But Ms Lee’s personal style tends to veer towards the conventional, tethered to a tad of sexiness. The red and black dress that was picked for her, which she said she “really, really love” (and, in the end, enthused, “99% I am going to buy”), looked frumpy on her. Perhaps we’re used to seeing Ms Lee in something sleeker and definitely body-skimming.

Despite the potential pull of the live stream, which was Club 21’s very first, the simple and straightforward presentation drew a high of 349 views at its peak, and slipped to 266 when it was about to end. This was surprising to us as Club 21 has 53.8K followers and Ms Lee (#heyrozz) 109K. It is not clear what the target was, but the presenter did say that the show would begin when they hit 200. This might be considered an encouraging figure when most Club 21 posts garner 2-digit likes.

CDG IG Live Rozz

The show, filmed at the CDG Hilton Shopping Gallery store, was spared of conceptual strength. Sure, it looked spontaneous and user-generated—typically IG, but Ms Lee might have gained from a script or a rehearsal. At times, she did not appear to know her way around in what is a very small store. She kept relying on her smartphone to prompt her with what to say next. As she guided the viewer into the corner that houses CDG Girl, she called the space an “enclave”. Throughout her intro of the clothes, her description was that of a neophyte—light on fashion-speak, and peppered with “pretty dope” for almost every garment she showed.

Additionally, we did not quite understand why Ms Lee was told to announce the price of what the models—a male and a female—wore. And this covered every piece of the look on show. As one CDG regular told us, “customers who spend above S$1,000, would already know roughly how much those garments would cost.” We are aware that this was a selling exercise, but the inclusion of prices at the end of each intro of the pieces sadly gave what are designer clothes a pasar malam vibe.

Comme des Garçons usually launch their seasonal collections in the store with an intimate party, mostly attended by the more hardcore of fans. Given that social distancing is still strictly in place, it is understandable that an in-store event was not possible. With IG Live, CDG was pointing to the adoptable direction for other Club 21 brands, but, we were not sure who the target audience of this show really were. There was nothing in the presentation that might interest the die-hards, who were already invited to the store for the reveal tomorrow. For the newbies, Ms Lee who, like a keen-to-belong mom, happily described a shirt as “super street”, might just be the right host. And an eager shopper.

Screen grabs: Club 21/Instagram

Two Of A Kind: Raise The Fist

One is on a canvas tote, the other is on a jersey tee. Both say the same thing: punch up for unity


NDP fun pack 2020Punch the air: illustrations of (left) National Day Fun Pack tote by Anisah Binte Mohamed Faisal and (right) Comme des Garçons Black

The raised, closed fist as symbol of solidarity has become popular of late due, in no small part, to the still spreading and unceasing pandemic and, at the same time, the pervasive call for social change. It is, more than ever, a symbol of unity and strength. Unsurprisingly, therefore, that more than one fist is used to represent collective motivation and passion. Even among 11-year-olds. And more than just those by a primary five kid, Anisah Binte Mohamed Faisal of Haig’s Girl School, doing her bid to contribute to the illustration on a tote that is one of the goodie bags many had initially not wanted.

The visual on the left appears on one of the reported 20 designs of the National Day Fun Packs issued last week. This one caught our attention for its un-child-like depiction of five raised fists, above them the national flag appearing to flap. This could have been the work of a much older student, or a more involved social activist. But it was not. That it reflects the mood of the moment suggests the work of an artist beyond her years, or old enough to be on the same wavelength as the illustrator who created the three fists on the T-shirt from Black Comme des Garçons (right), a CDG sub-label that celebrates the founder’s love of the colour of coal.

CDG is not associated with sharing socially-aware messages on their clothes. Sure, text has been used in their various lines, but they don’t necessarily point to troubled times. Or, the call for action. But, of late, possibly pressured by the need for wokeness, they have been active in creating capsules with clear messages that align themselves with the desire to right social wrongs. First, there was the Social Justice Charity Capsule that stood up for the Black Lives Matter movement, and then, the Fearless initiative, with proceeds that go to charities that support healthcare workers.

As for the CDG Black T-shirt, we do not know if it came first. It is possible that this went into production before the other two ideas were conceived. Still, the punch-the-air image is timely. We aren’t certain about the word ‘black’ in full caps: It could be the name of the sub-label, or it could be a nod towards the BLM movement. Whichever the case, it could be worn with less activism-linked zeal. At least in this week that leads to National Day.

As an easy-to-adopt gesture and symbol, the raised fist has been brought to sharp focus following the BLM movement that came about in response to the increasing disproportionate brutality experienced by people of colour when dealing with law-enforcement personnel. However, its history goes way back—from rejections of ancien régimes to fights against oppressors to the marches of feminist movements to even the revolutionary zeal (革命精神, geming jingshen) of Mao’s China. Perhaps as a modern symbol, it could simply be the more inclusive and embracing “stronger together”, as seen through the eyes of a primary school child. Majulah Singapura.

Photos: (left) Zhao Xiangji, (right) CDG Black

Street Players Meet

This is no collab with Supreme. Some of you might be delighted. 😀


CDG X Stussy SS2020 P1

By Ray Zhang

For the Comme des Garçons sub-brand CDG’s first collaboration, the three-letter label chose not the obvious or those the main line had paired with before, but one, although now trending, isn’t immediately the name to sing a duet with: Stussy. Yet come together they did, like Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger.

I am not at all clear what the end game might be, but it looks like this pairing is going to allow two very different brands to sing their way to their individual banks—gleefully. Stussy, possibly flushed by the high that came from its founder’s collaborating with Dior two months ago, is a surf-turn-street-wear brand currently being rediscovered by a new gen of fashion folks and celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. CDG, interestingly hashtagged “CDGCDG on social media and “CDGCDGCDG for their web address” (wouldn’t we recognise that as kiasuism?), is possibly the most street of the main label’s many sub-brands. In that sense, it is possibly a match made in heaven.

CDG X Stussy SS2020 P2CDG X Stussy SS2020 P3.jpg

Frankly, I am not quite sure I see Stussy or CDG in this sole release: a unisex varsity jacket in heavy and coarse melton wool, lined with (presumably polyester) satin, and appliquéd on the left sleeve with chenille patches of a distinctive Comme des Garçons perfume bottle (Concrete, maybe?) sandwiched vertically between a jacket and a pair of pants, and on the right, a bucket hat and a T-shirt. At the back, a much larger patch depicting a stylised surfer holding a CDG-branded surf board. The media release says that the jacket “nods to the past without losing sight of the future”. Hmmm… a future together?

Those of us hoping to find in this collaboration some spirit of either brand might be disappointed. I don’t know who this is really for. One Comme des Garçons “please, I-buy-only-the-runway-pieces” addict told me the varsity jacket is “definitely” not for him. We concurred: CDG, the label, is not exactly shorthand for the main line’s outre looks. Rather it is to maximise profits with and to entice those shoppers who care only about logos, and prominently positioned ones. This varsity jacket, too. If, however, price is a concern (and I understand), one can always pick the Hanes T-shirts—they’re also a collaboration and are always available.

The Stussy X CDG varsity jacket, SGD570, is available at Dover Street Market Singapore. Photos: Dover Street Market

One Plus One

Once upon a time, Comme des Garçons was a logo-less brand. Not any more. Together with Nike in the re-release of the odd Shox, CDG made it clear that its visible branding—fully spelled out—is here to stay


CDG Nike Shox TL

By Ray Zhang

Back in 2000, when the first Shox shoe was released by Nike, I thought it was the weirdest looking kicks. There were high heels in the rear of the mid-sole, comprising four stout pillars—never before seen in a running shoe. From the side view, I remember thinking that if King Louis IV of France were to wear sneakers to jog in the Jardin du Château de Versailles, these might have been them. The thought won’t go away when Nike released, the Shox with red heels, which, if back in the day of the ancien régime of the Roi Soleil (Sun King), were not only an indicator of political privilege, but direct access to the monarch in his court.

On the court of fashion, Comme des Garçons paired with Nike to bring the Shox back, freeing it from its basketball association. Honestly, the Shox is the last shoe I expect CDG to work on. By now, despite a new reiteration, the TL (now, with a full-length Shox mid-sole, looking like sneaks on stilts!), the Shox is, to me, evocative of yesteryear tech. To be sure, Nike shoes, no matter how old, lend themselves easily for a remake. But, the Shox is, to me, a style that perhaps suits sitting somewhere comfortably in the farthest end of our memory.

However, as with most CDG X Nike collabs, things are not so straightforward or obviously retro, or even sporty. The is classic Japanese deconstruction meet as-classic hip-hop styling. CDG is the earliest proponent of the raw edge, which is a garment finish that appeared way back in the ’80s. With the mesh-upper, CDG now does not give the sneaker neat seams—around the lace guard (which stretches downwards and is conjoined with the toe box), at the top of the tongue, the foxing at the heel, and, unexpectedly, around the surprisingly discreet Swoosh.

CDG Nike Shox TL (2)

The curious thing to me is the chain with the full-name pendant, a hanging jewellery that is less Carrie Bradshaw than Missy Elliot. It sits above the lacing, under the upper end of the pronounced tongue, already boasting the CDG logotype. The gaps between the Shox’s columns in the mid-sole naturally allow something like a chain to be passed through, hence securing the eye-catching link. Sneakers have welcomed studs and other hardware, but not chains; not even used as laces.

I sense this placement is very much influenced by hip hop (what fashion isn’t?!). There’s more than a whiff of the neck-wear preference of the likes of A$AP Ferg and Drake (or if you look, further back, LL Cool J!) here. Also known as “rap chains”, these are part of a growing blink culture that has elevated the status of jewellers such as Ben Baller of If & Co and, naturally, the dynamic duo of Verbal and Yoon of Ambush. CDG, especially through their retail arm Dover Street Market, seem especially drawn to this form of ostentation.

I have, of course, seen this chain and pendant before. Back in November 2015, it was distributed as a door gift of sort at the CDG store’s autumn/winter party. And I continue to witness the same worn by guests at subsequent in-store events conducted by the brand. Did CDG produce so many of the chains that they still have enough of them to be re-purposed (as they have with some of their fabrics)? Could this, indeed, be some sort of up-cycling? If so, you can’t say that Comme des Garçons isn’t giving sustainable fashion a welcome shot.

Comme des Garçons X Nike Shox TL, SGD490, is now avaialable at DSMS an Comme des Garçons, Hilton Shopping Gallery. Photos: (from top) Nike, Chin Boh Kay, DSML, DSML

Close Look: The Bulges Are Hard!

We didn’t think that the maternal bumps of the Comme des Garçons outfit would be as rigid as anti-riot shields


CDG SS 2019 fibreglass vest.jpg

We have to state for the record that we were mistaken. The Comme de Garçons protuberances that we blogged about in October last year are not stuffed body stockings. Now that we have the opportunity to look at the spring/summer 2019 separates—launched yesterday— up close, we saw for ourselves that they are, in fact, three completely different parts.

Rei Kawakubo’s base garments that bring back memories of her 1997 spring collection are in fact a body stocking, leggings, and a sort-of tank top made of fibre glass,  accompanied by those intriguing two bulges. One male shopper at the CDG store was heard telling his friend, “which woman wants to let people think her jugs fell to there”. We shall pretend he only came for Play.

The sales staff was trying to explain to us what these truncated torpedoes are about, alluding to the designer having not experience pregnancy. It is rather hard to see how these bodily extensions—organically shaped (giant silk cocoons?) and symmetrical as they may be—can be about child bearing. We were surprised how hard the bumps are, and could imagine how surprised the person who bumps into the wearer might be. There goes the thought of using them as transit lounge pillows.

For you ardent collectors of runway pieces, Comme des Garçons tattoo rose-print body stocking and legging set, SGD590. and fibre glass tank top, SGD6,550, are available at CDG. Photo: Chin Boh Kay

The Chums of CDG

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”



CDG HH 2018 P1By 囍

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.

CDG HH 2018 P2The 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.

CDG HH 2018 P6Left: 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.

CDG HH 2018 P4The 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

Towering Cortez

A vintage sneaker gets a vintage treatment: platforms


CDG X Nike Cortez AW2018

By Shu Xie

Comme des Garçons is a frequent collaborator with Nike. To fans of both brands, it’s a pairing made in heaven. Their output, as far as I can remember, is never boring or not whimsical. I can’t say it’s the same with Off-White’s, which banks on hype than edge to create desire. But that’s another story altogether.

CDG and Nike’s latest is a take on the latter’s Cortez, the Swoosh’s first track shoe issued in 1972, when many of us are not even a single-cell form. What the the Comme team has done, and rather spectacularly I think, is not give this classic kick a 2018 look, or splashy tech. Instead, they put the shoe in context, circa 1972. The Cortez was launched in America during that year’s summer Olympics in Munich and is believed to have truly launched Nike. But rather than connect to the sneaker’s sporting roots, CDG has opted to look at the major fashion footwear trend of that era. I don’t need to point to you what that was.

Launched today, the new kueh-lapis-like mid-sole of the Cortez and the shoe itself prove that, in footwear, retro styles can be relevant, look new, and easily lend themselves to reinterpretation. The CDG version comes with a leather upper and a foam platform that looks to be at least four-inches high (I have yet to put a measuring tape to it, but when I do, it will be reflected here). The mid-sole bears the cheeky imprint of CDG: the in-step and out-step of the striped platforms are mismatched.

Nike seems to be scaling the heights when it comes to their new kicks, which I suppose is a boon to women who wants sneakers to wear, but find them generally too low (hence the intro of other platform sneakers such as Puma X Buffalo London’s Suede Buffalo and Stella McCartney’s Eclypse?). And I remember the Spice Girls, do you? I guess I am going too far back.  I don’t know about you, but these giants look mighty collectible, even if your Yeezy-loving other half thinks otherwise.

Comme des Garçons X Nike Cortez, SGD760, is available at Comme des Garçons, The Shopping Gallery, Hilton. Illustration by Just So based on original photograph by rosrosroc

Two Of A Kind: Helping Hanes

CDG, the new sub-brand by Comme des Garçons, is like the streetwear giant Supreme: heavy on logos. It also shares something in common with the latter: Hanes tagless T-shirts


Hanes, Supreme Vs CDG

Is there a need for Comme des Garçons to sell co-branded Hanes T-shirts? Apparently so. Must they follow Supreme’s foot steps? Who isn’t? Is this affirmation that Comme des Garçons is going mass? Who knows? Supreme’s James Jebbia is not, according to the man himself, a designer. Comme des Garçons’s Rei Kawakubo is. So, what gives?

Comme des Garçons launched a new line, CDG, worldwide last week. An accompanying website that is also the latter’s e-shop opened for business this past Wednesday. CDG is not coy about its initials as the brand’s main selling point, literally littering its white homepage with the three black letters—animation that is reportedly conceived by design head Rei Kawakubo. Among the hoodies, blousons, and bags available at launch, the logo distinguishes the items more than design does.

This is, of course, not the first time CDG has used its initials to such oversized, dramatic effect. As part of their (now-concluded) collaboration with Japanese retailer Good Design Store (GDS), the CDG logo was, in fact, the main reason the small collection consistently sold well. Commercial and accessible, CDG is, by the looks of its longevity, more successful—and desirable—than the first initials-as-brand-name labels DKNY and CK, helping the house that Rei built secure a reported USD300-million turnover annually.

To hit that figure, one can’t really just rely on expensive products. There’s not that many catwalk looks you can sell either, but the CDG T-shirt, at the opposite end of haute, at the entry-level price of ¥8,700 (S$105) for a pack of three (compared to the S$100 a piece for the most basic of the tees of the Play line) is what you can move in staggering numbers. And for those who find the prices of the regular T-shirts prohibitive, the tagless versions (logo-less essentially) may proof to be a value buy, as is often the case in Supreme stores.

Whether there’s pent-up demand for something that Hanes sell all-year round at around USD10 for the three-piece pack or this is merely antithesis to the Zeitgeist, it’s too early to tell. Sure, this is a page from the Supreme play book (we don’t know what’s in it for Hanes), but if Supreme’s success with the tagless three is any indication, CDG may score with yet another product that can go on selling without a need for markdown. Some may deem this too low for Comme des Garçons to go, but it could prove to be a strategy most well Play-ed.

Photos: (right) Stadium Goods, (left) CDG

Finally, Clothes!

Has Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons had enough of creating stuff for private collectors and museum curators?


CDG SS 2019 P1

This could be one of Comme des Garçons’s most wearable, clothing-like collections in recent memory. While it may delight fans, it did not mean Rei Kawakubo had made it easy. On the surface, the ensembles did not look like the encasements she had been showing for no less than six seasons, but, just as you thought it was safe to bring out the CDG rags you’ve been hording, she worked in the bumps. These, fans would know, are her old normal.

In fact, we started seeing some semblance of normalcy—by her own standard any way—last season (even the season earlier), when the designs seemed to have the chance of an actual willing body to wear them. This time round, the 30-look collection—a grand number, considering that the collection prior to last year’s Met’s Costume Institute exhibition comprised of merely 18 looks—could be mistaken for sister line Comme des Garçons Comme des Garçons or even the other family member, Black. It has distinctively identifiable pieces such as jackets (yes, with two sleeves), trousers (yes, with two legs), and skirts. They’re not only body-suitable, they’re boutique-ready too.

CDG SS 2019 G1

Reports following the show proposed that Ms Kawakubo was sharing her own experiences as a woman distanced by youth (hence the models’ grey hair and almost-no makeup) and, consequently, offering a thesis on womanhood, early or late. If so, could these clothes mirror Ms Kawakubo’s own unknown wardrobe, speculated to be more suited to her workplace than the deformed, layered, and status quo-defying constructions that she had been proposing to the miscomprehension of many not wanting to miscomprehend? Or has Ms Kawakubo simply returned from another planet?

Ms Kawakubo would, naturally not let clothes just be. No fashion is sacred that it can’t be defiled, no line too straight it can’t be bent, no tailoring too perfect that slits and holes can’t be put in it. And there are the bumps—awkward bulges not usually associated with fashionable dress. They have appeared intermittently since she first introduced them in the 1997 spring/summer collection called Body Meets Dress, Dress Meets Body. In the present iterations, many are more discreet, some of them appearing like pregnant bellies (actually padded body suits), peeking from between a slit made across the waist of jackets (or at the sides, like bulbous panniers). We don’t think this a commentary on a woman’s maternal disposition. Ms Kawakubo isn’t so obvious. But if this isn’t about child bearing—and it’s not likely a note on marsupial pouches in which joeys are born, what could she be getting at?

CDG SS 2019 G2CDG SS 2019 G3

It’s hard to say except that bumps are part of the CDG vernacular, just as stuffed bows and other large, three-dimensional embellishments are much a part of their decorative repertoire. So while this season’s offering may look recognisably wearable (and uncommonly symmetrical for the most part), they were not freed of Ms Kawakubo’s off-kilter but strangely feminine proportions, surface effects of hand-fashioned twists and turns, and unexpected placements of those protuberances.

Some people are disappointed that CDG is now offering clothes that would not be at odds with a typical fashion wardrobe. That those weird, sometimes wonderful designs may be no more. There has been talk among collectors of CDG’s catwalk looks that the designer no longer wishes to sell the main line shown in Paris Fashion Week. Difficult to make, it was said she had lamented. Additionally, she does not want them to be marked down for sale, a fate that’s hardly surprising since these clothes have a built-in don’t-buy-me/where-do-you-wear-this-to deterrence. Not everything in CDG can enjoy a healthy sell-through as the Play line. It has always been the unwearable pieces that have elevated the desirability of her sub-lines, much like how haute couture for French brands is the driver of sales of the RTW, leather goods, and perfumes. But then typical has never been the Comme des Garçons lure. Way-out more so.


Ahhh, But Does It Bite?

CDG Teeh and Tongue wallet P1

We know Comme des Garçons has a unique take when it comes to their wallets. But a sense of the cheeky? That’s not quite expected, but there it was—the Teeth and Tongue staring back at us, like ready-to-devour jaws, minus the cavities.

It is double thumbs up to the design team of the CDG small leather goods unit to visually pun on the ‘teeth’ of the zipper—a fastening very much associated with their wallets. As you’ll agree, we sure need more imagination in fashion. Hitherto, CDG has mainly toyed with the surface of their wallets, not quite the insides, which have remained mainly plain, even unlined. Now, there is an orifice to not only peer into, but also to guzzle your money with, assuming a wallet is something you still use in the creeping popularity of Apple Pay.

CDG Teeh and Tongue wallet P2The double-teeth wallet comes in two styles (one of them in two sizes). They’re made of cowhide, and lined with cowhide. The surface is in black, with the inside in red, pink, and white. Uncommon is the contrast zipper—red with gold teeth, a colour finish that could possibly be a nod to a certain hip-hop tribe. Pry open this set of gold teeth, and you’ll see another row: perfect pearly whites baring at you. Interestingly, the tongue does not stick out (is it even there?), but the tonsil does look like it’ll warble!

Comme des Garçons wallets—one among the staggering 17 lines of the company—was reportedly formed in 1980, the year before the brand debuted in Paris. Considered CDG’s best “starter points”, the wallet line comprises six basic styles, with what is commonly known as “half-zip” (the zip goes only two sides of the oblong-shaped wallet) considered the most popular among both men and women. While the CDG wallets do look quite different from the offerings of mainstream purveyors of leather goods, the Teeth and Tongue also illustrates that beneath the severe, inscrutable surface of the brand lies a softer heart—not quite Anya Hindmarch, but just as fun.

Comme des Garçons ‘Teeth and Tongue’ wallets, from SGD320, are available at Dover Street Market, Dempsey Road. Photos: Dover Street Market

Cooking Aid For Feet!

When is a jelly mold not a jelly mold? When it’s a toe mount on Nike Air Force 1 dreamed up by Comme des Garçons 

CDG X Nike Air Force 1

By Shu Xie

I don’t know about you, but I am a little averse to anything with reference to food placed on my feet, or on ground level. Maybe it has everything to do with my mom telling me when I was a kid that although food does come from the earth, there’s no reason to serve it so close to the ground unless I wanted to make friends with germs. Now, germs were a real childhood fear: they kill, or worse, retard growth. I was told that once germs invaded my body, I won’t be able to grow up. What could be more frightening than that? I did not, I should add, have Google search to help dispel that fear.

Fast forward to the present, that fear has turned to dread. Although I am, seriously, not a hypochondriac, and I have, by most accounts, grown up, I still wouldn’t consume food or use a cooking/eating implement that has come near feet or grazed the ground. So, sneakers topped with what appears to be jelly molds—held in place by rivets—are just on the side of disconcerting.

We are, however, living in a time when things can be “re-purposed”, also known by those more enterprising than me as life hacks. When the design team at Comme des Garçons looked at silicon jelly molds, they probably weren’t thinking of the konjac jelly they could cast. The dinosaur shapes are, in their mind, the perfect crown to the Air Force I’s toe box.

I wonder how, in these shoes, does the wearer navigate a crowded MRT train? What becomes of these shaped silicone caps when an unseeing fellow commuter steps on them? Can they be popped back to shape? What does a flattened dinosaur jelly mold look like on the top of a shoe? A squashed agar-agar?

This is not the first time Comme des Garçons added something superfluous and wacky to the top of a Nike classic. As part of the Emoji collection for Holiday 2016, the Air Force 1 sported a band with the heart-smileys of Play stretched across the lacing. Can you imagine Air Force 1 wearer Mark Wahlberg shod in them sneaks secured with a strip of emojis?

Actually, Comme des Garçons did not restrict these dinosaur jelly molds to sneakers. They’re fastened to shirts and jackets, too. Perhaps next to the body, there’s less to fret about floor-level microbes!

Comme des Garçons Homme Plus X Nike Air Force 1 in black or white is available at Dover Street Market Singapore. Photo: Jim Sim

From Dover Street To Dempsey Road

It’s been a long journey, across three cities/continents, but it’s here at last. Dover Street Market, the retailers’ retailer, opened last Saturday to the delight and the spending power of its fans, but is it a twin of the famed London, Tokyo, or New York store?

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The queue to get in on opening day of Dover Street Market Singapore (DSMS) in Dempsey last Saturday was reported to be so long (“longer than the Chanel queue at Ngee Ann City”, according to one irate shopper) that those not desperate enough to get in were texting friends to say they were waiting at nearby PS Cafe for the throng to thin. We received such a message at about four in the afternoon, five hours after the store opened to the public. A day earlier, a preview for VIPs, “special Club 21 members”, and members of the media also saw a snaking line outside the main entrance of the building, prompting one guest to say it was “sheer madness”.

The queue also started to form at midnight before the store’s opening on Saturday morning. It was known then that DSMS was to release some limited-edition sneakers, such as Clot X Nike Air VaporMax and the Nike Mars Yard 2.0. Sneakerheads and E-bay resellers, not necessarily Dover Street Market fans, were prepared to camp overnight—as though outside Supreme or Kith, New York City—in what was once a military camp even when they were told that numbered coupons will be issued so, as a staffer said, “they can all go home”.

We visited the store yesterday, thinking that the craze would have died down and that, being a Monday afternoon (made stifling by the punishing heat), there wouldn’t be a crowd. We were wrong—dead wrong. This was not a clientele we had expected. There was a conspicuous absence of Comme des Garçons (CDG) groupies. Sure, stores such as Dover Street Market has lost much of its snob appeal the moment street wear became part of their merchandise mix and communication vernacular. But we were a little taken aback that many had come as if they were going to Sungei Road’s Thieves’ Market on its last day or to tell us they spent most of their time in void decks.

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DSMS’s general manager Fiona Tan was overheard telling a bemused customer, “Even this morning, I was bowled over by the amount of people.” Who were they, inquired the interlocutor. “They’re generally young—many in their teens—and they buy brands such as Vetements and they pay in cash.” Are these the usual Club 21 shoppers—his curiosity aroused. “No, they’re not.” Yesterday, a friend of SOTD told us that a staff member, temporarily installed at DSMS from a Club 21 Hilton Shopping Gallery shop (in fact, many familiar Club 21 sales personnel were working in DSMS over the weekend), said, “I’m so excited that there’s a new group of shoppers.” But, according to him, she did not mention that they were, as he saw that very moment, “the T-shirt-shorts-and-flip-flop crowd”.

What did these terminally casual dressers come to this temple of forward style to see?

The Singapore store, like in London and New York, is housed in a historic building, but unlike the latter two, isn’t an edifice and not conceived for grand purpose. This block was part of the former MINDEF and CMPB camp that occupied what was known as Tanglin Barracks. Dempsey has been a military installation since the 1860s when the British bought the 213-acre site from the owner of what was then a nutmeg plantation to build a defence HQ. It is part of three clusters (the other two: Minden and Loewen) of commercial space, and, since the mid-2007, has been a thriving F&B neighborhood.

DSMS’s entry here is a little at odds with the area’s rustic and verdant lure. It is a striking oddball among un-lovely retailers of mostly curios and antiques. This is retail disruption, if you need an example. The building itself is made plain and white, and only distinguished by its thatched roof that gives its interior a ceiling height not seen in the other DSMs. This is the first DSM store in a single storey. The others are spread over several floors (London: five, Tokyo and New York: seven). Its façade, nondescript as the building is architecturally sound, somehow reminds us of a now-defunct, compact, 2-storey Comme des Garçons in Tokyo’s Aoyama district—a stone’s throw from Blue Note Tokyo and no more than a kilometer from the CDG flagship—identified only by an orange door. True to CDG’s scream-not exterior, DSMS’s walls are plain to a fault. Perhaps, therein lies its pull.

The away-from-the-maddening-shopping-crowd location is consistent with DSM’s provenance, and also (once) a regular surprise of CDG locations. When DSM first opened in London’s Mayfair on Dover Street, more noted for heritage hotels, such as Brown’s Hotel—known in the 19th century as a “genteel inn” that was opened by Lord Byron’s valet James Brown—than fashion retail, the store was a standalone that attracted mostly those in the know and fashion editors looking to buy clothes that would score with photographers such as Scott Schuman. Dempsey isn’t quite a hideaway, but it has low-traffic noise and a neo-kampung vibe that is best exemplified in DSM’s signature collage of a ‘hut’ (pictured above), touted to be the tallest among all DSMs.

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As with all the other DSMs, the interior of the Dempsey store is designed by CDG’s reclusive (or ascetic?) Rei Kawakubo, who had dabbled in furniture design in the mid-’80s (the collectibles now, unsurprisingly, command astronomical prices). She was reported to be on site during the course of the renovation, but had remained unseen, leaving the public-face role to her husband Adrian Joffe. There’s no perceivable methodology in Ms Kawakubo’s scattered design and not-standard fixtures. If she could deconstruct clothes, she certainly could do the same with interiors. These unrelated visual amalgams come together as what Ms Kawakubo famously called “beautiful chaos”, cleverly choreographed and contained in what is akin to a mess hall.

With such a horizontal expanse, we had expected semblance of a maze, as seen in the vertical Ginza store. DSMS is surprisingly rather linear in its layout—the straightness broken by pockets of space put together to reflect the various brands’ own identities. The store guide is, therefore, not identified by floors. Instead it goes by “spaces”. There’s less of an exploratory component here since one does not get to meander into unexpected corners or hidden recesses. It is more like walking in a corridor flanked by rooms.

In the inner-half of DSMS, a fenced-up zone called “Wire Fence Labyrinth”—which is more a menagerie—makes one feels caged in. Perhaps, as one shopper suggested, Ms Kawakubo is more adept at putting together a space stretched across multiple floors. Used to starting the exploration from the top level of DSMs, we found the elongated oblong, while large, quickly comes to the opposite end. DSMS is easily covered in one lap.

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Even more straightforward is the merchandising. DSM has always banked on its flair for assembling products with both emotional and design value. This is a store that easily elicits a response from visitors—rare is the shopper who leaves without a deep impression. For Singapore, that emotional connect seems a little feeble. There is a rather large supply of tees, a product that surely does not raise temperatures in our T-shirt-aplenty city. These are instantly understandable items: no explanation required. Despite its “no planning” claim, DSMS clearly had a game plan. They know from the start who’s going to come and what they’re going to buy. The shoppers this Monday afternoon proved them right.

Sure, sneakerheads and streetwear devotees will be thrilled with the skate/sports offering, but the absence of Supreme and Palace may not move true aficionados. If you’re here for the sneakers, then you’ll be rather surprised by the smallness of the area dedicated to your fave kicks—for now, essentially a corner given to Nikelab, which, incidentally, offers the best value for the softest cotton jersey T-shirts in the store, at S$79 a pop. This lack of immediate visibility for sports shoes is a dramatic contrast to DSM London, where a big chunk of the basement level is dedicated to some of the most desirable trainers that easily rival those of indie retailers such as Footpatrol.

DSMS’s surprising surfeit of T-shirts is, perhaps, a reflection of our fashion-consuming masses than the store’s buying direction. It’s symptomatic of how we only want to dress “comfortably” because it is always too hot for anything more than a tee. Serious fashion folks were naturally not immediately bowled over. Said one product development manager: “the buying seems strangely safe for DSM. They plan to make the most money out of T-shirts?” A retired fashion stylist was not impressed. “The merchandise is similar to Comme,” he lamented, “Same-same, but different. It’s like I am a fan of Miyake’s pleats and there are other labels showing pleats as well.”

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To understand the perceived sameness in the merchandising of DSMS, it is necessary to consider that the store is, foremost, a “curated” space and that it is possible that the buyers were aiming at aesthetic cohesion. Or, a similarity that serves to augment CDG’s above-the-common standing. Rei Kawakubo’s vision for DSM is likely the vision she has for CDG and, as such, she tends to be drawn to those labels that traipse the same path as she does. Yet, that may not be entirely the case. If DSM is home to the best of the avant garde, what are Gucci and The Row doing here?

The thing is, CDG, as a group of labels, does not resist the commercial. It never has. If you look at their free-standing stores in Tokyo, from Omotesando to Marunouchi (where there are two), accessible sub-brands such as the wildly successful Play, the distilled-to-the-essence Black, and the pop culture-friendly Edit allow the main brand to achieve mainstream appeal, which, in turn, allow Rei Kawakubo to do the work that, while incomprehensible, gets museums a-calling. Good Design Shop (in Singapore for the first time at DSMS)—a collaboration with Tokyo lifestyle outfit D & Department—is an outlet for CDG to flaunt, well, CDG, the three letters that appear on the clothing and bags produced exclusively for the Shop, all irresistible to those who need to wear brand names on their chest, or back. At DSMS, Gucci and The Row are the saleable names that allow moneyed shoppers’ fast track to fashion credibility.

The talk among industry watchers is that DSMS will change the scene here by injecting hitherto missing excitement into an increasingly bleak retail landscape. This we hear, and read, with a tinge of sadness. Can only foreign businesses rescue us from the doldrums that the selling of fashion has become on our shores? Back inside DSMS, the answer is a yes. Whether you are rejoicing among the shelves and racks of T-shirts or cavorting with CDG’s own mind-boggling clothes, non-native Dover Street Market is a veritable fashion playground. It’s well-lit, fine-looking, and fun to wander through.

Dover Street Market Singapore is at 18 Dempsey Road. Photos: Galerie Gombak