Edwin Himself: Interview with Filip Pagowski – Creator of the COMME des GARCONS PLAY Logo
Whilst some COMME des GARCONS traditionalists scoff at the PLAY collection for its graphically-driven designs, Polish artist Filip Pagowski single handedly created one of the most visible and recognizable icons associated with the popular Japanese brand. In an interview seen at Edwin Himself, Pagowski speaks regarding his background and growth under his parents, two influential Polish artists in their own right. Furthermore, prior to the usage of the now iconic PLAY logo, Pagowski discusses a relationship that spanned many years before including his appearance in various COMME des GARCONS settings including fashion shows. The interview in its entirety can be seen here.
Where are you most creative? New York seems to retain a strong niche for creative diversity? How has your environment played a role with your work?
I try to be creative in many places. Years ago, New York supplied and triggered creativity. Today it’s a yuppie town. Or actually post-yuppie, considering the recession. So, yes, there is still hope for New York. I like nature and spend winters in the Alps. It gives me peace and helps [me] concentrate.
Growing up in Poland in the 60s and 70s I learned to take advantage of limits, even to enjoy them, as well as being able to create imagery from scratch, not just use existing images (photography, for example). That came from necessity, as Polish graphic/printing industry was poor and one had, at that time, a very limited access to the technological standards of the Western world or Japan. But these conditions forced designers/graphic artists to develop a different, independent and often more creative and still pertinent today vocabulary. (example: Fall 2006 CdG Men’s collection that used 4 of my father’s posters created in the 60s, 70s and 80s, for their shirts, jackets, etc…) Or maybe I never learned about the charms, powers and ease of photography when applied with graphics, therefore it was always natural to me to feel comfortable with my “home made” images.
How did your relationship begin with Comme des Garçons’ Play collection? Were you familiar with Rei Kawakubo’s work before working under their commission? How did the eyed-heart character come about?
PLAY heart image happened simultaneously with, but independently of the creation of the PLAY line. It’s as if we both were affected subliminally by each other’s work. I submitted it for another CdG project, for which it never made it, but eventually it resurfaced; making bigger waves as a logo for the PLAY line. By then I’ve been already working for CdG, on and off for about 2 and a half years. Of course I was familiar with Rei’s work. I discovered CdG in the early 80s and was a fan ever since.
I had a long and somewhat spontaneous relationship with CdG. It all started in the early 80s, when my then wife Dovanna, who was a fashion model, started doing Paris shows for CdG. At that time, we also collaborated with our friend, the sculptor Daniel Wnuk, and created a performance/fashion show in the Danceteria club in NY, which consisted of Dovanna wearing a cement dress! We sent the pictures of the event to Rei Kawakubo, who responded with a letter.
Later through Dovanna, I met a person responsible for CdG operations in the US, who used me on several occasions to model CdG men’s collections in their showroom in NYC. In 1992 I traveled to Tokyo where I met some CdG people as they very generously helped me and my Mom experience Tokyo (invited us, among other things, to see their and Yohji Yamamoto’s shows). That same summer, I was offered to participate as a model in CdG’s men’s show in Paris. I was one of a bunch of non-models doing this. Others included Lyle Lovett, John Hurt, Ossie Clark, Brice Marden, Jon Hasell, etc… All very interesting, very successful, even famous artists, actors, designers, musicians…
And then came my collaboration in 1999. What’s funny, is that Rei Kawakubo, did not realize I did all these things with CdG before. She “discovered” my work and wanted to use me based on that and not on some social connection. The PLAY logo happened just like that! I remember working on something, while all of a sudden not connected to anything, I got this idea of a red heart with a set of eyes. I drew it instantaneously and the first draft was it. The rest is history.