COMME DES GRACONS: ON THE WAY

PARIS — Comme des Garcons designer Rei Kawakubo plans to make waves with her newest outpost in Paris. Literally.
The central feature of the new boutique, slated to open in April in a discrete courtyard off the Faubourg Saint-Honore, will be an undulating red fiberglass wave, emanating from the ceiling and the walls, that will wash over visitors as they pass through a 160-foot-long entrance corridor. The store layout resembles a golf club, with a long, narrow, low-ceilinged passageway leading to a large, high-ceilinged shopping area.
“It will be rather avant-garde,” said Adrian Joffe, Comme des Garcons managing director and Kawakubo’s husband. “People like things that are new, and being new is the crux of what Comme des Garcons is about.”
Kawakubo oversaw design of the 4,500-square-foot shop in conjunction with the up-and-coming London firm KRD, whose principle architects are Shona Kitchen and Ab Rogers, the son of Lord Richard Rogers, the architect of the Pompidou Center in Paris. The shop will replace the firm’s existing Paris unit, established in 1982 on Rue Etienne Marcel, which is slated to close in late March. Joffe said sales have remained strong in the old location, but “it was just time for a change.”
The location, in central Paris on a tony strip boasting such stores as Chloe and Yves Saint Laurent, is an unusual one for the Japanese designer, who also has a location in Tokyo. In recent years, Comme des Garcons has gravitated to out-of-the-way neighborhoods with an artistic bent, like its Manhattan location in the emerging art district of Chelsea.
But Joffe insisted that the location is still a destination.
“It’s quite hidden,” he said. “People will have to make an effort to come. Rei wanted something private that can be a place of discovery.”
Because the structure is protected as a historical site, as are many buildings in Paris, Joffe was obliged to maintain the building’s facade.
“Given the structural constraints, Rei developed the idea of creating a new building within the building,” he said. Last October, Kawakubo used the space for her runway show.
Apart from the fiberglass wave, the store will feature the raw elements found in other shops, including concrete floors and white walls.
“There is a certain beauty in what remains unfinished for Rei,” Joffe said. “It will not be overdesigned.”