the 5 most surprising comme des garçons runway cameos
As the Met opens its epic Comme des Garçons exhibition, we take a look back at some of the famous faces who have graced Rei Kawakubo’s hallowed runway.
Photography Alasdair McLellan
Jean-Michel Basquiat (spring/summer 87)
In 2010, the late Glenn O'Brien wrote a moving tribute to his good friend Jean-Michel Basquiat's unique sense of style. The Style Guy praised the way the young star wore clothes before and after his meteoric ascent in the art world. "He [discovered] expensive European suits but [treated] them like coveralls, splashing them with the colored shrapnel of his paintings, treating Armani like Dickies, Versace like Sears," O'Brien wrote. Basquiat's appreciation for Japanese fashion would come a little later in the 1980s, when pioneering designers like Issey Miyake, Yohji Yamamoto, and indeed Kawakubo became more popular stateside. Shortly before his untimely passing in 1988, Basquiat graced Rei's runway — sporting two grey double-breasted suits with mary janes. The neo-expressionist painter wasn't the last art titan to make an appearance on a Comme catwalk, either. Pop artist Robert Rauschenberg took a trip down the pink carpet in 1993.
John Waters (1992/1993)
The cult director has long been one of Kawakubo's most devoted disciples. Before she asked him to accept her CFDA Award in 2012, Waters dedicated an entire chapter of his 2010 book Role Models to the "genius fashion dictator." In it, the Prince of Puke recounts his first visit to the Wooster St. Comme des Garçons shop in 1983: "It looked like a morgue. A few black rumpled pieces of clothing lay like wounded bodies on slabs," Waters writes. "I left the store feeling like a king." He also recalls walking in one of Kawakubo's shows in Paris (he doesn't give the specific collection, but did provide his age at the time, 46, which dates the season around 1992 or 1993). "Right before I had to go on, I had to pass through the stylists and end up later under the hawk eye of Rei herself for a ﬁnal inspection. She took in my entire look in one critical glance and suddenly grabbed the collar of my shirt and yanked it sideways so it hung clumsily. Whatever courage I had managed to work up vanished instantly, but she gave me a severe pat of conﬁdence and shoved me through the curtain onto the runway." Here's hoping Kawakubo is designing the counsellor uniforms for Waters's just-announced sleepaway camp.
Sandra Bernhard (autumn/winter 92)
Like Miuccia Prada (who stacked her autumn/winter 12 show with actors), Kawakubo typically saves celebrity cameos for her men's runways. One exception: actress and comedian Sandra Bernhard. She modelled three black, baggy looks in Kawakubo's exceptional autumn/winter 92 outing, sharing the runway with Christy Turlington and Linda Evangelista. (Bernhard also did a nude spread in Playboy that same year, the legend). According to Vogue, she first met Kawakubo when she approached Comme to be dressed for an event; the designer put her in a men's suit. "She's an artist, she's political, and she does her own thing," Bernhard told the magazine. "She's always just marched to the beat of her own drummer in a way that a lot of people can't do, or don't want to do, in the fashion world."
Marc and Ian Hundley (spring/summer 95)
They say good things come in pairs; especially true for twins Marc and Ian Hundley. Before both became artists (Marc's solo show Circus of Sour recently ended its run at Bed-Stuy's Teen Party Gallery), the Canadian brothers were sought-after models in the 1990s. Often appearing together, the duo was photographed by legends like Mary Ellen Mark and Steven Meisel. Most memorably, the Hundley brothers walked in Kawakubo's spring/summer 95 show. Featuring 100 impeccably tailored looks, the blockbuster Transcending Gender show was Kawakubo's take on the era's enduring androgyny. Between icons of this gender-agnosticism (think Stella Tennant, Kristen McMenamy, Shalom Harlow) came the Hundleys, each in delicately deconstructed suiting elements. Marc later memorialised the show with one of his cult T-shirts, a new take on the famed Comme staff jackets. This T-shirt was even included in a 2012 group exhibition dedicated to revisiting the legendary Comme collection. Titled "*95 (In Paris, The Outsiders Are Officially In)", the show featured works by both Hundley brothers and Nick Relph.
Alexander McQueen (autumn/winter 97)
Long before Donatella Versace and Riccardo Tisci traded places in each other's campaigns, Kawakubo tapped another design maverick to walk in her autumn/winter 1997 Homme Plus show. A freshly shaved, 28-year old McQueen — then at the helm of Givenchy — sported a pair of red and blue plaid pants and a simple black sweater on the menswear catwalk. The look was far more laid back than Kawakubo's other checked and gingham offerings that year; spring/summer 97 was her radical "Body Meets Dress, Dress Meets Body" show (popularly known as the "lumps and bumps" collection). Two years later, McQueen turned up at another Comme runway outing. But this time, as a member of the captive audience.
Text Emily Manning