There is a reason Rei Kawakubo and husband Adrian Joffe’s fashion empire is referred to as the Comme des Garçons universe. Vast, ever-expanding and immensely complex—much like our own universe—it may very well take a PhD to fully master the minutiae of the Comme empire and the myriad brands that fall under Kawakubo and Joffe’s creative umbrella.

There are the various sub-brands, other designers’ eponymous labels funded by Comme des Garçons, retail projects, defunct lines and, of course, collaborative endeavours. Where does one start when considering Comme des Garçons and all it entails? After all, there is no other brand that can lay claim to the absolute breadth of offering that Comme can—from simple T-shirts to abstract and intricate works of performance art.

If the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s exhibit on Rei Kawakubo—only the second living designer, after Yves Saint-Laurent, to be honoured—was any indication, Comme is revered as more than a clothing empire. Instead, Kawakubo’s work has an artistic quality to it that calls into questions what clothes are, what they aren’t and what they should be. As such, any study of Comme des Garçons should be with exactly what creates the special, almost magical, aura the company boasts: the runway collections.

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