Susannah Frankel: Ready To Wear

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Indy Lifestyle Online

The public perception of Comme des Garçons is as follows: a radical and avant-garde label that is rarely people-pleasing enough for those not immersed in fashion actually to wear. And that's assuming that anyone outside the fashion world – and indeed Japan, where the driving force behind the label is based – has even heard of it.

The public perception of the high-street retailer, meanwhile, can be roughly reduced to this: purveyor of cheap and cheerful interpretations of anything but cheap but still mostly cheerful designer fashion for those who are neither willing nor able to fork out on the real thing.

What to make, then, of the recently announced forthcoming CdG collaboration with H&M, the latest in the Swedish company's long line of link-ups with big names, including Karl Lagerfeld, Stella McCartney and Viktor & Rolf?

On the face of it, the two brands couldn't represent more disparate values – the impenetrable vs the accessible, the creative vs the commercial, and so forth – which is, of course, precisely why the concept is exciting.

"I have always been interested in the balance between creation and business," says Rei Kawakubo, the Comme des Garçons founder and designer, on somewhat more voluble form than usual – it is not uncommon for this fashion deity to sum up her collections in one, or if she's feeling chatty, maybe two words.

"It is a dilemma, although for me, creation has always been the first priority. It is a fascinating challenge to work with H&M since it is a chance to take the dilemma to its extreme, and try and solve it."

Margareta van den Bosch, creative director of H&M, has this to say: "Rei Kawakubo has been on the top of our wish list for a long time, and we are thrilled she has chosen to collaborate with us. We have tremendous respect for Kawakubo's fashion philosophy, questioning fashion's ingrained patterns, and admire her artistic approach to design."

Launching in Tokyo in November, then worldwide a week later, the range will include womenswear, menswear, childrenswear and even a perfume – the Comme des Garçons fragrance line, featuring olfactory delights inspired by everything from garages to rhubarb, is hugely successful.

If past experience is anything to go by, the end result will more than live up to expectations. The people at H&M have so far put all other designer-high street collaborations to shame. This is one company that not only has the power to pull in superstar names, but also is brave enough to see the virtue of the unpredictable. Start queuing now.

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