Rei Kawakubo launched SHIRT in 1988, imbuing one of the most basic, most regimented elements of menswear with a jolt of whimsy. Shirting is, in many ways, the first building block of men’s formalwear. From a classicist’s perspective, there are many rules that go into the making and wearing of collared shirts — minor differences in collars, cuffs, stitches, buttons and fabrics help indicate where a shirt should be worn and what it should be worn with.
Produced primarily in France with standards that run parallel to shirtmakers like Charvet and Turnbell & Asser, Rei Kawakubo takes the storied practice and turns it on its head. Bolts of striped poplin are cut up and patched together, panels of fabric are pintucked and gathered around seams and shapes extend outward into space. Kawakubo demonstrates a knowledge of the work uniform’s DNA extensive enough to toy with it—like the rest of her work, the designer understands exactly which rules she’s breaking.
The line has since expanded to include knitwear, pants, jackets, shoes and accessories, but the core exercise in limitation serves as an unwavering through line. Using the strictest guidelines in patternmaking and construction, Comme des Garçons SHIRT wields its namesake to break new ground.