GREATEST: The Art of Collecting Comme des Garçons With A$AP Nast
Inside the style icon’s decade-long quest for elusive treasures from Rei Kawakubo’s legendary label.
A$AP Nast’s 2020 track “Designer Boi” is an anthem for those who like to dress nice. Described by Nast to Genius as “a song to sit and watch the sunset in your fave ’fit,” the WEDIDIT-produced track sees Nast and D33J waxing lyrical about endless shopping sprees and splurging on designer brands. “Comme de Gar, like the boy, she can’t take the Prada off,” raps Nast at the top of the first verse, placing the Japanese label that has become the cornerstone of his wardrobe ahead of every other brand that follows.
While a Comme des Garçons shoutout might not sound earth-shattering now, the Harlem native played a helping hand in cementing its place in today’s archive-obsessed menswear market. Scroll through Nast’s IG feed and you’ll find him wearing rare and archival pieces from the brand, from Homme Plus striped shirts to mainline coats from 2003, as well as unconventional accessories like Comme des Garçons x Mikimoto pearls. Nast has been vocal about rocking Comme from early on, having posted regular stories of looks from his personal collection and throwback pics of him wearing the label as far back as 2010, the year Instagram first launched.
Anyone who’s familiar with the Comme des Garçons universe will know that the brand isn’t for the average style enthusiast looking for a 9-to-5 suit. Rather, it’s a label to test the limits of creativity. Founder Rei Kawakubo has long been heralded as the ultimate renegade designer thanks to her avant-garde silhouettes and techniques that question commonly accepted ideas about clothing. It’s this idiosyncratic and experimental approach to fashion that chimes so well with Nast’s unorthodox way of dressing.
Here, we speak to the Harlem-born style phenomenon to find out where his love for Comme des Garçons first started, his favorite pieces and how he came to influence contemporary menswear.
When did you first encounter Comme des Garçons and what first attracted you to the brand?
I’ve always known about it, but the first thing that caught my eye was a pair of Junya Watanabe boots. I was walking by a consignment store in SoHo called INA. They had these Junya boots in the window; they were super heavy brown combat boots that I didn’t even know were Junya. They were expensive but I ended up getting them. I remember taking them home and sitting at the edge of my bed, just looking at them like, “I don’t know what I’m going to wear them with, but they’re sick.”
So was that the first CDG item you bought?
That was my first real purchase. That was me entering the game, you know? It started my love for collecting unique Comme pieces. From there it was like wildfire. I started doing more research into the brand, learning more about it, buying into Junya’s stuff.
Do you know how many pieces you have in your collection?
No. [Laughs] I’ve never paid attention too closely. I’m just buying. Most of the time when we’re traveling, it’s like a Comme tour. Everybody else is doing music tours, we’re doing fucking Comme tours!
Anytime I go out of town, vintage collectors pull up and want to sell me stuff. Kids will send me stuff all the time. Random kids will stop me in the street with gifts.
What’s been the hardest piece to acquire?
It’s like a Levi’s denim jacket but it’s Comme. It’s got a sick wash. I believe it’s from an early collection in the 2000s. That stuff is really hard to find. I remember I’d seen this one cat on the street in New York wearing it. Then I started looking for the jacket—you can’t find this jacket anywhere.
Then randomly I’m at a pop-up in LA. They had so much stuff in there and I remember they had the jacket. I took that one out of there. I take it pretty much everywhere I go. I don’t move without that jacket. I don’t care what the weather is like, that jacket goes everywhere I go. There have been times when I thought I lost it and it’s like my heart is just, “Oh, no. Not this one. Please…”
There are [matching] denim jeans that I’m trying to find, too.
That’s one of the reasons why I love Comme so much. Because the archive never ends.
Would you say that is one of your grails? Or are there other Comme des Garçons grails still on your radar yet to be acquired?
It’s definitely one of my grails, but I don’t know if it’s my grail grail. It’s a piece that I don’t want to lose because I know what it takes to find. People know my love for Comme so they’re always asking, “You want to buy this CDG piece?” They’re always trying to show me something new. Just when I think I’ve seen it all, it’s like I’ve seen nothing at all.
You’ve got eyes everywhere.
Every time I think I’ve collected enough, I’m like, “I can just chill for a little bit.” Then it’s like, “Where did this collection come from? And where did this piece come from?” That’s one of the reasons why I love Comme so much. Because the archive never ends. They’ve done it all.
You’ve previously described your personal style as unorthodox and spontaneous. How does Comme des Garçons complement this mindset toward dressing?
You never know what Rei is going to do. That’s what we all love about her as a designer and as an artist. She’s always raising the bar. That’s how I try to approach clothing. I’m always trying to see where I can take it next, whether it’s color or mixing fabrics together. All of these things make up a great outfit.
Understanding color, patterns, understanding your skin tone and how things fit you. What they do with CDG, and Comme in general, ties in with how I like to dress and style myself.
Everybody else is doing music tours, we’re doing fucking Comme tours!
How do you go about putting a ’fit together when dressing in Comme? Are you drawn to a particular item and then build around that? Do you wear it as a complete outfit?
It depends on which side of the bed I get out of in the morning. I know what looks good because I’ve mastered my own body. No one knows me as I know me. So when I get dressed, these are all the things that plague my mind: I already know “x” color doesn’t go well on my skin, so I’m not going to wear this. These are all the things that go into making a really great outfit.
You regularly attend Comme des Garçons fashion shows. What makes the shows so special to watch?
Number one, you feel special because they don’t really invite [many] people to their shows. In that sense, it’s usually intimate. I was talking to a buddy the other day about what fashion has become. The people who wouldn’t normally care about sitting at a show or even being at Paris Fashion Week—people who didn’t really take this seriously—are now the people that want to go to a show and sit in the front row.
This is why I stay in my own little bubble. I love to see how other people wear Comme. It’s interesting to be able to see how different people approach the brand and how they wear it. There’s no specific way either. Wear it how it suits you. Wear it how you feel comfortable in it.
Like realistically, come on, these [Comme] pants, not many people are going to walk in the store and be like, “Yo, I want those ones” off the mannequin. But I’m the guy that’s going to come in and be like, “Nah, let me get those ones,” and then know what to do with them.
Then that’s education for other kids. Now they see me and they’re going to see this and then say, “Oh, okay cool. So that’s how you do that, got you.” I love giving people that breath of fresh air when it comes to dressing. That’s one of the reasons why I do what I do. I see it as an education and like—
—awareness of how to wear some of these brands.
I love giving people that breath of fresh air when it comes to dressing. That’s one of the reasons why I do what I do.
Do a lot of people come to you for styling advice?
For sure. I style 95% of my friends. It’s ill when they call me when they’re going to fashion week, like, “Yo, I’m going out there, I don’t know what to wear.” I’m like, “Alright, cool. I’ll come over later and help you out.” I love to do that because it’s going to make my friends look good. When I step out, I don’t want to be the only one looking good.
If you could go back to attend one show, which one would it be?
Probably the first ’80s collection in Paris. And then obviously all of the collections throughout the ’90s. I’m a real Comme fan. There are so many collections that I love and so many pieces I love but don’t own yet. I have what you call a hunter’s mindset. I’ll buy pieces off people’s backs. I’m psyched-out, man. I’ll stalk you down the block like, “Yo, how much?” [Laughs]
If you could tell your younger fans one thing to keep in mind when trying to develop their own personal style, what would it be?
Simply be you. Wear what feels comfortable and what feels right to you. Nothing is ever wrong if it’s right for you. At the end of the day you judge how you look when you go out. There are times I’ve been discouraged; I won’t act like I’ve always had the craziest confidence. There are times I think I look stupid as hell. When you go outside, you’re probably going to meet somebody who makes you feel some kind of way about the way you look, because you’re insecure about it in your head. When you delete that out of your head and you’re just like, “Yo, this is me. This is what I like and this is what I’m into,” who cares what anyone else thinks?