RIP Ganryu, COMME DES GARCONS’ Most Underrated Brand

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When discussing the fashion giant that is COMME des GARÇONS, it’s easy to get lost in the myriad of labels and sublabels that make up the machine that Rei Kawakubo built. From its inception, COMME des GARÇONS has always been a bastion for fashion’s black sheep—whether that meant a controversial approach to clothing design, or simply an extensive use of the color black.

Even with a diverse roster of designers under its umbrella, it’s ironic that one of Comme’s most unique labels—Ganryu—has been one that focuses on building around daily basics. Canadian shop Haven  and Miami boutique UNKNWN initially broke the news that the label is coming to a close.

There is no official statement from Comme, but a representative from the company confirmed that Fumito Ganryu has left the company. The news is unfortunate, as Ganryu’s radical embrace of the most common items in our closets helped make it one of the most criminally underrated names in modern menswear.

Launched in 2008 by Fumito Ganryu, the designer found his footing in the wide world of COMME des GARÇONS by cutting his teeth as a patternmaker for Comme heavyweight Junya Wantanabe. While having his own namesake label put him in the same company as both his former boss and contemporaries like Kei Ninomiya (designer of fellow CDG label Noir by Kei Ninomiya) Ganryu used this opportunity to take a different approach.

Funnily enough, when it comes to a collective like COMME des GARÇONS, that means trafficking in garments that aren’t just accessible, but crafted in commercially viable silhouettes. As noted in Business of Fashion’s examination of “The Children of Comme” Ganryu’s “not concerned about fitting in.” That might be more ironic than it means to be.

Often described as “streetwear,” Ganryu instead defines his work as “forward-thinking casualwear.” Playing with the concepts of items like canvas sneakers, denim jackets, workwear trousers, and tailored shirting, Ganryu’s offerings season after season skew from slightly offbeat Americana, to contemporary classics. 

Take the brand’s aptly titled “Eccentric Casual” Fall/Winter 2015 collection: outerwear pieces were crafted out of textiles normally used for tailored shirting. The Spring/Summer 2015 “Natural and Vintage” collection reexamined a classic coaches jacket by swapping a traditional nylon fabrication for linen—but only in the body of the jacket, not the sleeves. The overall effect is subtle from a distance, but impactful up close; the clothes don’t look out of the ordinary from a distance, but as you approach, Ganryu garments expose their quirks.

This genre-bending approach is precisely why Miami boutique UNKNWN chose to feature area R&B artist Twelve’Len in an editorial featuring pieces from Ganryu’s final Spring/Summer 2017 collection (which are featured in this article). Like Ganryu, Twelve’Len’s inspirations are equally eclectic, ranging from 50 Cent to Marvin Gaye. It’s an unlikely combination that somehow works.

While creating easy-to-wear pieces doesn’t sound like a feat in and of itself, producing items that can seamlessly slide from the shelf into any man’s daily wardrobe—all while residing within highly-experimental universe of COMME des GARÇONS—is damn near revolutionary. Considering that Comme has shown itself to be a proving ground for some of the most paradigm-shifting designers (some of which still produce their collections with help from Comme), it’s slightly refreshing to have a designer in their ranks who looks to rethink everyday garments with uncommon silhouettes and details.

“I want to make a statement that does not exist anywhere in the world or in the world of COMME des GARÇONS,” Ganryu explains in an interview with Fashion Headline Japan. “I’m thinking of something intrinsically nonexistent and hoping that’s the very reason that my designs can be well received around the world. I want to create universal items.”

Ganryu admits he has a predilection for the humble coaches jacket, an item he often revisits in his collections. Equal parts sporty and utilitarian, it embodies his toe-the-line design philosophy perfectly, which is why his clothes successfully bridge the ordinary and the offbeat.”

But even though Ganryu may design around menswear essentials, that’s not to say the line is unafraid to stand out. Take the brand’s Spring/Summer 2017 collection, which, almost uncontroversially was composed of commonplace items like hoodies, jeans and shirting. But, instead of offering up tame reworks of those classic items, he’s twisted the Ganryu hoodie into an hombre homage, turned blue jeans turquoise, and chopped a denim shirt into a patchwork of different washes and weights. These garments showcase the true genius of Ganryu.

Of course, these things stand apart from the average pair of denim or shirting that you’d encounter on the sidewalk, but their overall silhouette isn’t alienating or out of place; a Ganryu item won’t look as boring as something you might purchase at a big box retailer, but it’s designed to fit into your wardrobe like it is.

When boutique Oki-Ni asked him how he toes the line between individuality and commercial viability, Mr. Ganryu simply replied: “It’s not easy, but that’s what I think a designer is supposed to do.”

Thinking on all the labels that rest beneath COMME des GARÇONS, Ganryu is one of the most approachable—a fact that is revolutionary when it sat next to some of the most out-of-the-box brands in the fashion industry. With Ganryu shuttering, its combination of pragmatic wearability and CDG-level originality is something that will be hard to replicate, much less replace.

“Everyday clothes can be boring, and eccentricity alone doesn’t make something unique,” Ganryu explains to Oki-Ni. “[But] when both elements are balanced in a garment, you can wear them for any occasion.”

For even more COMME des GARÇONS goodness, check out what went down at the NYC drop of the CDG Shirt x Supreme collaboration.

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