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TOKYO — Comme des Garçons and Louis Vuitton feted their much-anticipated temporary store here Wednesday night and racked up a fair spate of orders as Japanese fashion editors and local celebrities rushed to get their hands on one of Rei Kawakubo’s custom-designed bags for the French house.
This story first appeared in the September 4, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Located in a small faux brick structure in the trendy Aoyama district, the interiors are true to Comme des Garçons’ spare aesthetic, with gray concrete walls and an exposed metal staircase. Steel boxes coated in LV-logo gold flock are mounted on the walls of the lower level. Each box features a slit or compartment designed to hold a specific model of the six-piece handbag collection.
The store, which opens to the public today, will stay open for about three months.
“Rei really wanted to present Louis Vuitton in a Comme des Garçons environment. We kept the spirit of Comme des Garçons very much alive with the concrete walls and the concrete floors,” Adrian Joffe, Comme des Garçons’ managing director and Kawakubo’s husband, told WWD shortly before the store’s opening festivities began. “She wanted to create a brand new environment for Louis Vuitton, something they’ve never seen, very minimalist and industrial.”
Vuitton president and chief executive officer Yves Carcelle remarked how the store’s stark design elevated Louis Vuitton’s products in a new and refreshing way. “To see our products magnified by this very minimalist setting…I think it’s really like an installation of contemporary art where the installation plays a role in the emotion as much as the piece itself,” he said.
Carcelle recalled how Kawakubo told him that she wanted to “recreate the emotion” she felt when Vuitton came to Japan for the first time 30 years ago and she witnessed the phenomenon as an up-and-coming designer.
Kawakubo, clad in a black jacket and harem pants, swung by the store’s opening festivities and defied her recluse image by posing for a photo with Carcelle. She offered up few but well-chosen words on her state of mind: “I’ve finally done it.”
Carcelle, Joffe and Kawakubo mingled with a diverse crowd of guests including Junya Watanabe, architect Kazuyo Sejima, Tao Comme des Garçons designer Tao Kurihara, Ai Tominaga, a host of LVMH brass and Dior Homme designer Kris Van Assche, who was in town for his own bash Tuesday night. Then, the action moved on to nearby club Alux, where videos of Comme des Garçons’ runway shows from the early Eighties were projected on a large screen.
The six items exclusive to the store include two small original evening bags, a duffle adorned with animal charms and a quirky take on the mini Speedy sporting four sets of handles, which Carcelle joked resemble “leather noodles.”
Prices range from 78,750 yen, or $726, for a 12-centimeter-tall rectangular bag to 194,250 yen, or $1,790, for the aforementioned duffle.
And shoppers need to be patient: When they place their order, they receive a voucher in a special leather sleeve. After six to nine months, the finished bags can be picked up at select Louis Vuitton stores in Japan. Carcelle stressed the items are destined to become collectors’ items since they cannot be purchased anywhere except the Aoyama store.
Those who can’t bear the thought of holding out that long can consider buying one of the 10 Vuitton bags Kawakubo has selected as her favorites, including Speedys of various sizes and a rectangular tote. These are on display in the middle of the store in a display cage made of Perspex and aluminum framework. The bags sold in the temporary store bear a special gold LV imprint near the handle and have a shorter wait time — they are ready in a week and can be picked up directly at the Aoyama store itself.
A metallic staircase leads to the second level, where shoppers can place their orders and examine a set of antique Vuitton trunks as well as a recreated foldable travel bed from the French house’s archive collection.
“Having Rei create the Vuitton store — in the way she wanted to do it — is really for us a rediscovery of our own brand,” Carcelle said.