PRINT November 1997


Marc Atlan for Comme des Garçons

WHEN COMME DES Garçons’ head Rei Kawakubo decided to launch her first perfume in 1994, she bypassed ad agencies and hired a completely unknown Parisian graphic designer, Marc Atlan. His work—abstract, iconoclastic, minimal—perfectly complements the label that has come to signify the conceptual end of couture. Under Kawakubo’s direction, Atlan has engineered a thoroughly hypermodern product design. Comme des Garçons’ first perfume—generically named “Eau de parfum”—featured industrial packaging (it was sold in partially filled, nondescript plastic bags) bearing only the brand name, a bar code, and a recycling symbol prominently displayed on the front. For the ’95–’96 ad campaign, Atlan chose a green kitchen sponge and detergent bubbles. As Kawakubo explains, the image represents “the clash between a traditional luxury item with an ordinary everyday object to create an unexpected contrast.” Atlan’s packaging of the most recent CDG perfume, White, bears this out: the opaque-white, bulgy bottle with block black type, vacuum-packed in transparent plastic, comes in an ultrasimple, ultra-unadorned box. Though Atlan’s chic conceptualism may appear in some far-flung venues—he recently put a photograph of his grandparents in a poster used to launch a T-shirt boutique in Thailand—his blend of luxury and irony is clearly made in France.

Olivier Zahm contributes frequently to Artforum.

Translated from the French by Sheila Glaser.