September 2 2014

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Comme D’Habitude


For the 12 fashion obsessives I met and photographed for’s tribute to Rei Kawakubo, this year’s CFDA International Award honoree, wearing Comme des Garçons is a badge of honor and a signal of membership in what amounts to a secret society. (It is also, for many of them, an everyday occurrence. Business comme d’habitude, you could say—as usual.) Kawakubo is one of fashion’s most sphinxlike practitioners: no interviews, no inspirations, no chummy glad-handing backstage after the show. What’s fascinating about Comme is that it is its own only explanation, however you choose to wear it—whether perfectly in line with convention or, for some, at war with it. Each person profiled managed to make Comme their own, which, as far as I’m concerned, is an incredible litmus test for any label. It’s also a reminder that—though this is a tired cliché—fashion can be, and often is, art. It’s a sentiment I heard over and over again while discussing CDG with its devotees, like Carolyn Wade (pictured), the Birmingham-based art collector who likes her Comme as shocking as possible. If that occasionally raises eyebrows, as with her famous Spring ’97 “bumps” look, it has also endeared her to other artists. Wade wore the look we photographed her in at a benefit in New York years ago when she ran into the late, great artist Robert Rauschenberg, who assumed from her outfit that she was a dancer with Merce Cunningham. (Cunningham had costumed his dancers in the same dresses.) When she ran into Rauschenberg at a second benefit at the Guggenheim the following week, she happened to be wearing it again. “I said, if I’d known I’d see you twice in the same week, I would have worn a different dress,” she told me with a laugh. “He said, go in the bathroom, turn that on the wrong side, and you’ll have a different dress.” She didn’t take him up on the suggestion, but I persuaded her to give it a try. The result is at left. Inside out or right side in, it’s an original. If you ask me—and I suspect any of our 12 subjects—they’d tell you that’s what makes it Comme, too.

Photo: Thomas Iannaccone

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