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August 21 2014

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World of Interiors: Dover Street Market New York’s Designers on the Spaces They Designed for the New York Megastore

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The many different edifices—many designed by Rei Kawakubo—of Dover Street Market New YorkTomorrow, Dover Street Market in New York opens its doors to the public (including that very committed member of the public who has been camped out in a pup tent on the corner, reportedly for days, waiting). The multibrand store, owned by Comme des Garçons, stocks both the full range of Comme des Garçons labels (which are many), and lines that Rei Kawakubo and her team select and buy for the store—with the sphinx-like Kawakubo often doing the buys herself.

The concept of shop-in-shops at multibrand retailers is nothing new, and many department stores have concessions piloted by individual designers and labels. But few give so much freedom to so many as Dover Street Market. (“We don’t go in for brainstorming,” CdG CEO Adrian Joffe put it dryly to Style.com last year) The result is that walking through the seven stories of New York’s Dover Street Market—or riding up in the glass elevator that was commissioned for the space—is a varied, eye-popping, and often surreal experience. Brands are grouped together in unlikely arrangements, decided by Kawakubo. On the seventh floor, Prada sits next to the skate brand Supreme, the Japanese line Visvim, and near André Walker, the cult designer coaxed out of semi-retirement to design a new collection for the store. And because most if not all of the labels are given license to design their own spaces and fixtures, going from one to the next, even over a distance of only a few feet, can feel like traveling between dimensions or falling down the proverbial rabbit hole. (This is not even to take into account the stairway, designed by the architects Arakawa and Gins, which somewhat resembles a birth canal and is reputed, according to a Comme representative, “to reverse your destiny.”) And this is before you account for the artworks commissioned from the space, including three artist-designed pillars that evolve as they cut through the seven floors, a sound art installation, a mural and more.

The result is a store that is completely unlike all of the existing shopping experiences in New York. But for every person disoriented by the experience, there is likely to be another delighted by the creative chaos. “It’s not overthought. I feel sometime shopping environments can be overcalculated—it’s nearly forced, duty-free luxury,” said Jonathan Anderson, who created the first branded space he’s ever done in the history of his J.W. Anderson label for the store. “I don’t think luxury has to be determined in that way. I think luxury is about the arrangement of ideas, not necessarily the finish.”

Style.com spoke with several designers who created their own spaces—and in many cases, exclusive product—for Dover Street Market New York.

Dover Street Market New York opens tomorrow at 160 Lexington Avenue, NYC.

J.W. Anderson

J.W. Anderson's space at Dover Street Market New YorkAnderson, the London-based designer who was recently named creative director of Loewe, was inspired to build his space out of children’s foam-rubber play blocks, all in a shade somewhere between sky and Yves Klein blue. He’d seen children playing with them in a park in Venice, where he’d just returned from his first vacation in seven years when Joffe asked him to do a space on DSMNY’s fifth floor. “They’re from America, weirdly,” he said. “The company did them exclusively in different shapes for us. It was quite fun, actually.”

Dover Street has been a longtime patron of Anderson’s collections, which are also stocked in its London and Ginza, Tokyo, stores. Kawakubo herself selects the pieces to carry which often, thanks to her off-kilter eye, end up being exclusive to DSM. “I always like watching her edit. I love her commitment to fashion, buying from other brands. You have to be on a very different plane to able to do that,” he said. “I think that’s what’s so exciting about the relationship between Dover Street and Comme des Garçons. I think it’s such an interesting exercise, and that’s why there’s no compromise in the buy, there’s no compromise in the store shopping experience.”

Supreme

The Supreme space at Dover Street Market New York

“Supreme is a hard brand for people to categorize,” said founder James Jebbia. “DSM does a great job at taking the best brands in the world and mixing them in their store without categorizing them.”

All that is to say, Dover Street let Supreme be Supreme: graphic, in your face and immediate. Jebbia commissioned Weirdo Dave (né Dave Sandey, but also known as Fuck This Life) to create a large backdrop mural of found images, which has a Tumblr-ish spark. (A few yards away hangs Visvim’s cozy hanging quilts.) How much interaction did Kawakubo have with the space? “Not much, really,” Jebbia said. “Rei let us design the space how we wanted, but she looks at and approves every detail. If she didn’t like something, she certainly would have told us.”

Jacquemus

Jacquemus' installation at Dover Street Market New YorkThe young French designer Simon Porte Jacquemus opted for the minimal feel of a clinic for his section of the fourth floor installation, known as the DSM Showroom, dedicated to promoting emerging designers. (Besides Jacquemus, they are the London talents 1205, Craig Green, J. JS Lee, KTZ, Lee Roach, Lou Dalton, Phoebe English, Shaun Samson, and Sibling, the American label Proper Gang, and the Russian Gosha Rubchinskiy.) “The idea was to do a very playful space but very poor—very minimalist,” he said. “No detail. I don’t want a picture. I didn’t even want to write my name.”

Jacquemus showed Kawakubo his first collection, entirely in boiled wool, at 20. “She said something like, ‘At 20 to do a collection precisely, you must be someone talented.’” Not only did she buy it for her stores, but when Joffe discerned Jacquemus was having financial problems, he hired him as a clerk in the Paris Comme des Garçons store, too. He’s only recently left his post there to design full-time.

“For me, I was kind of a student of Comme des Garçons. When you work at the studio, you learn a lot, but when you work at the shop, you learn a lot too,” he said. “I got a kind of second degree. [I learned] you really can do what you want. And be sure what you want to do.”

Repossi

Repossi's vitrine at Dover Street Market New YorkGaia Repossi occupies her own custom-designed vitrine in the jewelry section on Dover Street’s ground floor. “I wanted the feeling of a gallery,” Repossi said. “We created a special window case made out of raw steel and glass, as poor as we could to contrast with the sparkle and delicate aspect of our pieces, so that the jewelry is the main focus, always first in people’s eyes.”

Part of her case is dedicated to a small collection of stacking rings designed for, and inspired by, Dover Street Market. “They are thin rings inspired from the dark, simple, yet graphic logo of DSM,” she explained. “They have almost a Japanese feeling in their minimal vibe. It’s a very thin collection with an accessible price range that’s a contrast from the general volumes of my collections.” The rings, which will arrive at the other Dover Street Market stores worldwide following their debut in New York, come in a special lilac rhodium never before used in Repossi’s collections, as well as a black PVD rhodium. “And,” she added, “as a refined full set with diamonds.”

Nike

Nike's space at Dover Street Market New York

For its second-floor installation at Dover Street Market New York, Comme des Garçons’ sometime collaborator Nike created an entire capsule collection, with shoes, tees, jackets and caps. “From Rucker and West 4th to Jordan’s big games at the Garden and Spike Lee, New York is basketball,” said Nike’s Matthew Kneller. “For us, it made sense to open up in Dover Street Market with a legendary basketball sneaker, the Nike Air Python DSM. The Air Python is a shoe that few owned during its original run (1987) and one the sneaker community has been waiting for.” The jackets and T-shirts play on the python theme as well.

For the space, flanked by menswear from Junya Watanabe, Gitman Brothers and Stutterhiem, Nike aimed for multifunctionality. “Shelves will become tabletops. Table legs can be swapped out to be reused as shelves. Display units can be manipulated into various forms for a variety of product display options,” Kneller said. “Everything in the space will evolve to become something else when needed. Mixing everyday materials with innovative design techniques, a combination of raw materials such as plywood comes to interesting forms through 3-D printing. Innovative in the approach, simple in its materials, the Nike space with Dover Street Market NYC looks to the future potential of retail design.”

And then there’s…

Prada

Prada's space at Dover Street Market New York

Prada’s space for the opening is lacquered with a mural inspired by the one that served as backdrop for the label’s Spring ’14 womenswear show. But while the Spring ’14 menswear collection and women’s Resort collection are both on offer, both with exclusives, the most enticing part of Prada’s space may be the capsule collection, labeled Prada Dover Street Market New York, inspired by classic Prada shapes and including an archive print.

Louis Vuitton

Louis Vuitton's pop-up at Dover Street Market New York

For Louis Vuitton’s first-floor space, which will be a three-month pop-up, men’s studio director Kim Jones commissioned artist Terence Koh to do custom appliques for the back of ready-to-wear pieces. They all sit under a open-weave dome meant to resemble the underpinnings of a crinoline skirt.

But there isn’t…

Céline

Phoebe Philo’s label declined to create a space for the store. “We were very surprised,” Joffe told WWD. “We have them in London, and they’re number one.”

Photos: George Chinsee

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