Adrian Joffe, the Sentinel of Comme des Garcons

The dark workspace is perched under the eaves of the Hôtel de Coulanges, a 17th century buildinge century in the Parisian district of Marais, where Madame de Sévigné once lived. The decor is uncluttered, if not frankly empty. No photo on the wall, no decoration. For all the furniture, a large wooden table around which the “Monk” – a nickname that the international press attaches to Adrian Joffe – invites visitors to sit on a stool.

In the lower floors, the activity is much more effervescent. In mid-September, a 3,500 square meter space – under the code name 3537, the address rue des Francs-Bourgeois – was inaugurated there. The visual artist Laurent Grasso will be installing there in October, followed by the Belgian collective Captain Boomer in November. Later, the artist Olafur Eliasson will show his work on the environment there.

Precise and speaking of a rapid flow, browsing the few notes in a sinuous handwriting that he prepared and placed in front of him for the interview, the owner, Adrian Joffe, 68, describes the 3537 project: “We will host exhibitions, parades, concerts, dance lessons, weekends devoted to the climate crisis, stands for those who want to rent spaces”.

The man wears his usual uniform, black shirt and pants, sneakers – all branded Comme des Garcons, a group he has chaired since 1993, the year following his marriage to the brand’s designer, Rei Kawakubo. If the Japanese conglomerate, with $ 400 million in gross annual turnover and 1,200 employees, is considered small compared to the big luxury houses, it enjoys an aura without real equivalent.

“Objects for the body”

For forty years, fashion circles have revered Rei Kawakubo, who signs complex, sculptural and radical collections. “It is no exaggeration to say that she is the most important fashion designer of the second half of the 20th century.e century, even if the admirers of Yves Saint Laurent would be offended, emphasizes Benjamin Simmenauer, professor at the French Fashion Institute. It was revolutionary, with an almost masochistic creative demand. Usually, creators are like scientists: they have an idea between 25 and 40 years old, then make it flourish, put it into culture. She, on the contrary, has not frozen anything, always starts from zero. “

Recurring patterns are certainly perceptible in Comme des Garcons, which she founded in Tokyo in 1969 – use of black, knots, asymmetry, synthetic materials – but no vintage is predictable. Every season has its share of surprises. His classics? Sweaters with holes, outfits that distort the back, masses of feathers. The parts can block the hands, make it difficult to walk. Since 2013, the very word “clothes” has been banned: Rei Kawakubo talks about“Objects for the body”.

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