Lagerfeld, sure. Viktor & Rolf, cute. Cavalli, sexy. Stella McCartney, feh. Rei Kawakubo, what?!
That's right, empress of whimsical Japanese luxe label Comme des Garcons, Rei Kawakubo, has announced that she will be the featured artiste on H&M's next designer collaboration. The collection launches first in early November, to coincide with the opening of H&M's second Tokyo store. In the following days, it will roll out to doors in the rest of H&M's global markets.
The collection will include apparel for men, women and children, as well as accessories and a unisex fragrance. This certainly is a much more expanded program than the fast fashion retailer has done in the past, and it would seem that the growth of product offering owes everything to the freshness that Kawakubo can bring to the brand.
Much like the Japanese designers Issey Miyake and Yohji Yamamoto, with whom she formed the Japanese triumvirate that defined much of the new wave fashion of 1980s American culture, Kawakubo's designs are structurally intense, and often include popular cultural references in a rather Pop Art motif (such as a series of men's suits she rolled out a in spring 2006 back that featured the iconic Rolling Stone's lips n' tongue logo splayed across the fabric). She was also the mentor for another fashion avant-gartist whose star appears to be ascending these days, Junya Wantanabe. For a look at some of her work, check the photo above.
That said, we're so interested to see what she turns out when she's not using high-tech fabrics or restrained by price points that might tie in some of her more flights of fantasy designs. As we see it, this could be a love it or hate it collection, and we just hope that the quality matches up to the buzz that will no doubt follow this collection's launch. We remember hearing that there were some issues with the clothes that Cavalli put out on the racks, not to mention those of the McCartney collection (said one of our friends, at the time: "I walked out with a cute dress that turned into a pile of buttons and thread after two weeks.").
Anyways, as always, here's the mutual lovefest that always follows these kinds of announcements.
"I have always been interested in the balance between creation and business," said Kawakubo, in a statement. "It is a dilemma, although creation for me 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 to solve it."
See what we mean? Seems like old Kawakubo might be prepping us for the design vs. quality vs. price issue we outlined above. Less avant garde, but better quality, or more envelope pushing and delicate? Again, will be so interesting to see her "solution" as she calls it.
And now from H&M's creative advisor Margareta van den Bosch (great name, non?!):
"Rei Kawakubo has been at the top of our wish list for a long time and we are thrilled that she has chosen to collaborate with us," said van den Bosch, in a statement. "We have tremendous respect for Kawakubo's fashion philosophy of questioning fashion's ingrained patterns, and admire her artistic approach to design. We are particularly excited that the collection will be launched in Japan, Kawakubo's native country, at the same time as the launch of our new store there."
Ok, so we'll have to stay tuned, but we think this could be good news. It will drive some buzz—as these collections have done in past incarnations—for both the designer and the retailer, exposing the younger, less monied set to Kawakubo's work and perhaps building brand affinity there, while probably giving H&M a much fresher and more high-concept street reputation for the risk they're taking in bringing her in.
We'll be checking back in November to see what the product looks like!