Kawakubo says she didn’t water down her designs for the mass market, but she does acknowledge that “it’s an attempt to sell to the wider public.” Musing on the strength of fast-fashion chains today, which compete with designer brands, she says: “I think they have their rightful place in the world. Not everyone necessarily needs new things all the time and creative designs. It’s good to have luxury restaurants and fast-food restaurants. You need both.” Indeed, Kawakubo has checked out her low-price competition, notably Uniqlo and Gap, although she hasn’t bought anything from either store. And she can be critical of a marketing-driven approach to the fashion business. “Even companies that start out wanting to sell first are not necessarily successful,” she notes. “For me, it’s a long-term process. What doesn’t sell today might sell tomorrow.”
Certain fast-fashion chains are known to ape runway looks and steal designers’ ideas, but on this point Kawakubo is as calm as a lake. She harbors no anger toward such pilferers and insists they’ve never knocked her off —perhaps with good reason. “It’s strange that they would copy Comme des Garçons clothes,” she pronounces without even a hint of a smile. “They don’t sell that well."