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Comme des Garçons Opens Kyoto Flagship

KYOTO, Japan — Comme des Garçons has a new outlet here, in the homeland of its designer, Rei Kawakubo.<br><br>The two-story, 4,000-square-foot space, which opened in July, is set discreetly on a side street at 378 Kameya, Oike, Agaru...

KYOTO, Japan — Comme des Garçons has a new outlet here, in the homeland of its designer, Rei Kawakubo.

The two-story, 4,000-square-foot space, which opened in July, is set discreetly on a side street at 378 Kameya, Oike, Agaru Gokomachi, Nakagyo-ku. It is one of just a handful of retail establishments in the vicinity.

The store’s facade is a sheet of flat squares of solid black granite with “Comme des Garçons” etched lightly to the right of the entrance. The company calls it “an anonymous or obscure entry leading into a place of exploration and invigoration.”

Conceived by Kawakubo and Takao Kawasaki, who translates her ideas architecturally, the space takes on elements typical of Kawakubo’s unconventional approach. A curving dark passageway leads into the store, which has stark white walls. Massive black-and-white photos of Sub-Zero freezers (used to contain important medical research), cover the curving walls and sales desk niches. The photographs, derived from a 1995 series of images by American photographer Catherine Wagner, provide a bracing, serious-minded contrast to the notion of a fashion store.

Purple lacquered Parsons display furniture, also designed by Kawakubo, provides splashes of color. These flashes of levity contrast with the serious design intent of the deconstructed, highly conceptualized clothing.

With this store, Kawakubo is increasing her presence in her native country, where the label is highly revered, yet the project revels in discretion. The unconventional exterior should clearly appeal to longtime CdG shoppers, but casual window shoppers will either be intrigued by the unique space or scamper off.

While CdG’s wares are available in sections of Kyoto department stores Takashimaya and Daimaru, the freestanding boutique is part of a company strategy to better control its brand identities — lines by Rei Kawakubo, Junya Watanabe and Keiichi Tanaka — and clip their dependence on department store sales, said the company’s managing director, Adrian Joffe.

The company, with international sales of $120 million for the Comme des Garçons group, expects the Kyoto store to generate first year sales of $5.8 million.

Dollars are converted from yen at the current exchange rate.

Initial sales seem to support that goal. The morning after the inaugural reception, prior to the 11 a.m. public opening hour, a smattering of hip, CdG-clad youth were lurking in the neighborhood, ready to be the first to buy. Sources said nearly 70 percent of the stock, priced from $100 to $2,000, was sold within the first week.(For a story on Japanese retailing, see page 10.)