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The Archival Comme des Garçons Pieces of a Graphic Designer

By Bianca Husodo

 
Jacket and dress, CdG SS ’01 “Optical Shock”

“Almost every season I would buy one of the collection’s statement pieces. This look’s optical effect is imprinted on juxtaposed calico and cinched in with a camouflage tape.”

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Grey jersey shirt, CdG Guerilla Store, 2006

“The typography on this shirt is done by Werk magazine, and features words in Singapore’s four languages. It’s a special run which was only available at CdG Guerilla Stores around the world. In the early 2000s, they were CdG’s brilliant idea of one-year-only pop-up shops housed in spaces that had historical references. In Singapore, I ran it for almost five years, moving its location every year.”

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Shoes, CdG Homme Plus AW ’13 “The Tree of Youth”

“These bowling shoes were first seen in CdG’s Spring/Summer ’96 ‘Kaleidoscope’ collection. These ones are the men’s version released in 2013, which I got for their youthful humour.”

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Grey felt blouson, CdG Homme Plus AW ’95 “Sleep”

“This was part of Rei’s controversial collection of loungewear, which critics back then somehow likened to prison uniforms [Kawakubo issued a statement that it was not her intention]. There are numeral graphics imprinted on thick felt at the back. Mine are quite faded.”

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A series of three blousons, CdG Homme Plus SS ’95 “Work”

“The things that Rei Kawakubo creates tend to stay and evolve. She could take the silhouette of a shirt or jacket and reinterpret it in thousands of different ways. These are her interpretations of the workwear jacket back in 1995 that were done using vinyl appliqué.”

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Men’s shirt, CdG Shirt, SS ’13

“I think one of the highlights [of my career], I would say, was when we finally collaborated. In 2013, Rei printed this graphic collage from Werk magazine’s ‘No.19’ issue onto a shirt.”

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It was in the late ’80s not too long after Theseus Chan graduated from art school that he first encountered the Japanese designer Rei Kawakubo — or, at least, her work. Kawakubo introduced menswear in 1978, nearly a decade after she launched her fashion label Comme des Garçons. It was instantly popular in both Japan and Paris, where she was (and still is) actively hosting fashion shows. But in Singapore, her name was still foreign, known only to those who paid attention to fashion’s undercurrents.

Chan’s encounter took place in a multi-label boutique at the former Paragon mall on Orchard Road. Instead of Kawakubo’s dark and off-kilter clothing, it was Six, her A3-sized bi-annual magazine tied to the label, that initially intrigued Chan. Furtively placed on a stand among the clothes racks, it was unlike anything he had ever seen before. The magazine championed artistic values — not a product-pushing agenda — and collaborated with artists and photographers to create visually driven narratives.

“The aesthetic is severe and austere, which appeals to me,” Chan recalls. Since then, the 59-year-old founder of Werk magazine — who’s often regarded as Singapore’s godfather of graphic design — has been a religious collector of Kawakubo-designed items, whether it’s a tchotchke or a deliberately ill-fitting suit. When asked if he could count the number of Comme des Garçons pieces he owns, he sheepishly admits, “Too many. Some of them I haven’t even worn,” he says, “I just look at them like they’re art pieces.”

Illustrations by Marisa Xin