Is there anything in fashion more classic — some might even say staid — than a strand of pearls?
Not when Rei Kawakubo gets involved. Mikimoto allowed the maverick designer to have her way with its cultured beauties, to which she added additional swags, meaty silver chains — and even a Comme des Garçons logo charm.
The seven-piece collection is on display today at 6 Place Vendôme — a pearl’s throw from Mikimoto’s flagship Paris boutique — during couture week, also a showcase for fine jewelry.
Priced from about $3,000 to nearly $40,000, the co-branded necklaces are to be sold from mid-February in Mikimoto’s flagships in Japan, plus Comme des Garçons boutiques in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Fukuoka, Paris and New York and five Dover Street Markets, retail emporiums that mingle Comme des Garçons with an eclectic range of brands.
It’s the latest thrust into jewelry for Kawakubo and her husband Adrian Joffe, president of Comme des Garçons International and chief executive officer of Dover Street Market.
Kawakubo said pearls prompt myriad associations, and “line up alongside diamonds in terms of value.”
“If we talk about women’s jewelry, one usually thought of pearls. Recently I’ve noticed how men also look good when they wear pearls — the starting point of this collaboration,” she mused.
Her goal was “making something that looks good, emphasizing the beauty of the pearl itself,” while “refraining a little from design” and avoiding “the usual gratuitous logo-adding way of collaboration,” she added.
It also isn’t lost on her that in working with a “traditional company such as Mikimoto, with a 150-year-old history, clashing with a breaking of the rules can lead to something new.”
While Kawakubo designs jewelry only sporadically for Comme des Garçons — typically necklaces involving pearls, incidentally — and it’s a negligible business for the brand, the jewelry category has been explosive at Dover Street Markets, accounting for between 10 and 15 percent of sales, depending on the location, Joffe said. There are Dover Street Markets in London, Tokyo, New York, Singapore, Los Angeles and Beijing.
Dover Street also boasts a multi-brand jewelry space in Galeries Lafayette’s concept store on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, and Joffe has indicated plans to open future freestanding “outposts” of DSM for the jewelry, sneaker, T-shirt and perfume categories, the first of which opened in Paris last year, dedicated to perfume and other beauty products.
Joffe and Kawakubo approached Mikimoto for the necklace range. Comme des Garçons has a penchant for collaborating with companies that are iconic in their category, such as Speedo for swimwear and Nike for shoes. Practically synonymous with pearls, founder Kokichi Mikimoto made history in 1893 when he created the world’s first cultured pearls.
“Rei has always been interested in taking something with tradition and authenticity and bringing something new,” Joffe said in an interview. “Mikimoto was really up for it.”
A necklace from the collaboration between Comme des Garcons and Mikimoto.Kawakubo quietly teased the collaboration at her spring 2020 men’s show in Paris, inspired by Virginia Woolf’s “Orlando” and foreshadowing costumes she designed for a new Olga Neurwirth opera that boasted five sold-out performances at the Vienna State Opera last December.
The advertising for the Mikimoto collaboration shows the chunky swag necklace on a young male model in a conservative suit and tie. Kazumi Kurigami shot the black-and-white image, under Kawakubo’s art direction. The campaign is to break in WWD Japan.
Joffe said he expects the Mikimoto x Comme des Garçons project will widen the customer base for both brands — and probably open a few minds about new possibilities with pearls.