A Brief History of Comme des Garçons Collaborations
Few other designers have embodied boundary-breaking ideas in art more than Rei Kawakubo. Blazing a trail over the last two decades, the Japanese designer’s fashion house Comme des Garçons has come through with a stunning line-up of sneaker collaborations, blurring the lines between fashion and streetwear thanks to their idiosyncratic charm. That said, unlike CdG’s maximalist garbs, the sneakers we’ve seen over the years often opt for a clean aesthetic, allowing the garments on the runway to take centre stage.
Kawakubo hasn’t built this empire alone – she’s been supported by a long list of loyal disciples, most notably protégé Junya Watanabe. Over time, the brand has expanded into a myriad of sub-lines, each with their very own sneaker link-ups. It’s easy to get lost in the maze of CdG collaborations, so we’re playing guide. Here’s a look back at Rei Kawakubo’s brightest gems, along with a few deep-cuts.
Junya Watanabe Comme des Garçons x Nike Zoom Haven (1999)
It may come as a surprise that the first collaboration between CdG and Nike wasn’t spearheaded by Rei Kawakubo. It was actually led by Junya Watanabe. In 1999, Nike unveiled the Alpha Zoom Project in Japan, tapping in Watanabe’s CdG sub-line to design the Zoom Haven’s colour scheme. At the time, the only difference between the CdG Zoom Havens and the more readily available Zoom Haven was an extra accent of red on the midsole. Despite this, their late-90s link-up established a connection between Nike and CdG that blazed a trail for groundbreaking collaborative designs in the future.
Raf Simons x colette meets x Comme des Garçons x Vans Slip-Ons (2005)
The Raf Simons x colette meets x CdG x Vans Slip-Ons were released in 2005 with a limited run of only 100 pairs for the colette meets x CdG store in Japan. A long string of collaborators isn’t the only thing that these sneakers featured. Peppered across the upper are iconic graphics from the Raf Simons’ Spring/Summer 03’ ‘Consumed’ collection. Coveted by Raf-heads and Comme-heads alike, we’ve spotted these sneakers selling for upwards of $1500 on the after market.
Comme des Garçons PLAY x Converse Chuck Taylor All Star (2009)
A precursor to the instant streetwear classic later released in 2015, the CdG PLAY x Converse Chuck Taylor is a low-key sneaker staple deserving of just as much kudos as its younger cousin. A common misconception is that the PLAY design team slapped on the red heart logo to the side and called it a day. They actually contributed much more than that. Through considered subtle changes, such as stripping back the Chuck Taylor’s contrast stitching and the iconic Chuck Taylor logo, the PLAY design team created a minimalistic sneaker that made every effort to highlight the red heart logo on its side. That same red heart logo would go on to shape contemporary fashion.
Supreme x Comme des Garçons SHIRT x Vans Capsule Collection (2014)
Boasting a Sk8-Hi and two Era colourways, the Supreme x CdG SHIRT x Vans Capsule Collection served as a touching tribute to the late NYC skater Harold Hunter. Arguably, the highlight of this capsule is the impossible-to-forget print of Hunter that adorns the side of the Sk8-Hi. Elsewhere in the collection, polka dots and stripes are heavily utilised. In recognition of Hunter’s life, a portion of the sales was donated to the Harold Hunter Foundation which supports inner-city youth interested in skateboarding.
Comme des Garçons PLAY x Converse Chuck 70 (2015)
If not the most impactful CdG sneaker collaboration of all time, the CdG PLAY x Converse Chuck 70 is definitely our pick for the most popular. Officially the fourth time collaborating with Converse, the Japanese label decided to evolve their previous iteration of the CdG PLAY x Converse Chuck Taylor.
This time, the PLAY design team opted for the premium All Star Chuck 70 as their collaborative canvas. Although very similar to the Chuck Taylor, it seems as if the design team had a change of heart (pun intended) when creating the Chuck 70. Gone is the ultra-minimalistic philosophy that was poured into the Chuck Taylor. In its place, a super enlarged heart logo peaks out from behind the midsoles. Unlike any of the other collaborations on this list, the Chuck 70 is still re-released every season to meet the seemingly insatiable demand for this beloved silhouette.
Comme des Garçons x NikeLab Air VaporMax (2017)
The first collaboration to leverage Nike’s VaporMax technology, CdG and the Swoosh linked up to create a VaporMax for the label’s Spring/Summer 17 ‘Invisible Clothing’ collection. Released in two monochromatic colourways, the VaporMax features a modified Flyknit laceless slip-on upper for an extra stealthy vibe. What better sneaker to incorporate into a body of invisible clothing than the VaporMax, whose naked Air unit is practically like walking on air?
Comme des Garçons HOMME PLUS x Nike Air Max 180 (2018)
Pretty as hell. CdG HOMME PLUS revived the Nike Air Max 180, originally released in 1991, for their Spring/Summer 2018 collection. Available in three bright colourways, all featuring a laser pink upper with colour variations in the accents and overlay. The only sneaker on this list to use eye-catching colours, we’ve seen the Air Max 180s making an appearance in fashion week street-style round ups and sneaker collections ever since.
Comme des Garçons x Nike Shox TL (2019)
One of the more recent collaborations from the Japanese label, the CdG x Nike Shox TL doesn’t shy away from the chunk. Instead, CdG actually doubles down. The design adopts the usual Shox TL tooling but completely modifies the upper with a mesh construction and a unique DIY rough-cut textile overlay finish, resulting in a bulging material effect. To finish, a gold chain is wrapped around the upper. Is there anything more CdG than that?