68 posts tagged "Comme des Garcons"
Breakfast with my colleague Maya to go over the lineup for the next issue of Style.com/Print, which we put together while simultaneously covering the shows on the site and publish within a month of the close of Paris fashion week, a live-broadcast approach to making a magazine. Then it was off to the Rodarte show. Last season’s collection got slated, though I sort of liked its trashy energy. This one had more of the Mulleavy sisters’ customary handcrafted offbeat charm and should be a hit with their fans. After that it was on to Diesel Black Gold on the West Side, and then a meeting on the East Side with a European luxury house, who filled me in on its plans for a huge event later this spring.
Tons of energy and lots of food for thought at Marc by Marc Jacobs, which has been rechristened by its initials and is now in the hands of the London-based duo of Luella Bartley and Katie Hillier. Something about the scale of the plywood set and the refracted references here made me think I could have been at a show in Paris. There was an intriguing magpie quality to the clothes, as if you were moving through the racks of Dover Street Market from the Japanese designer section to the sophisticated European section to the streetwear section. My favorite grouping was the BMX-inspired looks. The show was a bona fide smash with the audience. It’ll be interesting to see how the aesthetic, a break from the line’s more insouciant past, plays at retail. Delphine Arnault, of the parent group LVMH, was looking on from the front row.
Talking of Dover Street Market, I ran into the new Comme des Garçons-operated, multiretailer space on Lexington Avenue to say hello to Andre Walker. Walker is the first to describe himself as an “elusive” designer, and after a few stops and starts, he’s back with a small line, thanks to the encouragement of DSM’s Adrian Joffe and Rei Kawakubo. You’ll find it on the seventh floor between Junya Watanabe and Prada, an indication of the esteem Kawakubo has for Walker.
Every season, there are a couple of models who break through and start popping up in all the big shows so that you can trace the day’s development through their changing hairstyles and runway attitudes. This season, those models are Binx Walton and Anna Ewers, who in the space of a few hours went from Bolshevik ninja at MBMJ to sleek gallerina at the serenely beautiful Narciso Rodriguez show that closed another day of New York fashion week.
Is this the end of shopping as we know it? That thought kept insinuating itself in my head in December as I navigated the busiest spending time of the year. The revolution has been brewing for a while, of course, but this was the holiday season when I reached a personal tipping point in terms of favoring e-commerce over bricks-and-mortar. The physical act of visiting a store has finally become too depressing: You have to deal with the crowds, there’s rarely a sense of intimacy or discovery, there’s never anything in the size you want, the shop assistants in even supposedly upscale stores manage to be pushy and ill-informed at the same time (why is the line “Can I help you?” always delivered with a vague sense of threat?), and just try finding a taxi afterward. Better to stay home and log on. Ironically, one of the reasons the best online retailers win out is that they deliver a level of good old-fashioned service that their real-world counterparts have lost: Delivery to your front door (just hours after you’ve ordered if you live in New York), the ability to try things on in the comfort and privacy of home, and the option to return what you don’t like, no questions asked. Hell, if I’m logged in, one of my favorite e-tailers will even change the logo at the top of their site to Mr. Standen. It’s the little things in life.
No, I decided I was done with shopping the traditional way. And then along came Dover Street Market. I went to the press opening of the new multi-retailer space owned and curated by Rei Kawakubo and her Comme des Garçons team on the Friday before Christmas. Then I went back again a week later just to make sure my original opinion hadn’t been skewed by the energy of opening night. On both occasions, I came away with the same impression: Dover Street Market has made shopping enjoyable, even enlightening again. How? I think there are a few key lessons that other retailers could study.
1. Shopping should be a social experience first, a transactional one second.
The decision to put Rose Bakery on the ground floor immediately to the right as you enter was probably dictated by the contingencies of the physical space, but it’s a fortuitous placement. There’s nothing new about having a café in a store, of course, but what’s key here is that it doesn’t feel like a separate entity but a seamless part of the experience. The array of baked goods and the communal dining tables spilling into the shopping area immediately create a sense of well-being and bonhomie. That continues throughout the market with its seven floors and Aladdin’s Cave-like warren of individual boutiques. You feel like you are having a good day out even before you think about buying anything. That sentiment is probably helped by the slightly out-of-the-way Murray Hill location.
2. Shop assistants are the new rock stars.
First of all, they look the part here. But even if they’re dressed cooler than you, they don’t have that cooler-than-thou attitude. They won’t force themselves on a customer, but if you ask for assistance, you’ll find they are not only helpful but passionate and knowledgeable about the stock. None of this happened by accident. The assistants at Dover Street Market were cherry-picked from other independent shops around New York, then put through a rigorous set of interviews. I used to give other retailers the benefit of the doubt and assume that it was simply impossible to find great store assistants. DSM has proved it can be done.
3. It’s all in the mix.
Dover Street Market has the best variety of merchandise that I’ve seen in a long time. It adheres to the same formula that Kawakubo and Co. use in their other outlets in London and Tokyo, but perhaps because of the conservatism of most New York stores, it stands out in greater contrast here. DSM stocks a rigorously edited selection from—to name just a few—high-end designers like Prada and Saint Laurent, street/sportswear labels like Supreme and Nike, and up-and-comers like Shaun Samson and Gosha Rubchinskiy, not to mention a handful of items from an old-school French naval outfitter. Instead of feeling like you’re seeing the same things you’ve been looking at for months online or in glossy ads, there’s a sense of surprise here. Other retailers might argue that this approach wouldn’t be commercial enough for them. All I can reply is that nearly the entire stock of Supreme had turned over in the few days between my first and second visits. And it raises a larger point. Perhaps as traditional retailers do more and more of their business via their digital platforms, physical stores should become showcases for their more experimental ranges and most exciting goods, places where you enchant and engage your potential customers while the hard selling gets done online.
4. And finally…
Judging by DSM’s concrete facade, the shopwindow as we know it is dead.
World of Interiors: Dover Street Market New York’s Designers on the Spaces They Designed for the New York Megastore
Tomorrow, 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.
Anderson, 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 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.”
It’s coming…. Last year, it was announced that Rei Kawakubo’s conceptual shopping wonderland, Dover Street Market, which already has locations in London and Tokyo, would be opening its doors in New York. But we didn’t know exactly when the Manhattan mecca would launch, until today. This afternoon, DSM revealed that the store, located on the fittingly unlikely corner of Thirtieth Street and Lexington Avenue, will bow on December 21. What treasures will be on offer, you ask? Prada, Thom Browne, Supreme, Simone Rocha, Christopher Kane, Alaïa, Atto, A.P.C., Rick Owens, Junya Watanabe, and a brand-new range from nineties fashion star Andre Walker are just some of the lines on DSM New York’s stock list. And don’t worry—wares from every breed of Comme des Garçons you could possibly dream of will be up for sale, too. Whether DSM will be able to transform the notoriously bland Murray Hill neighborhood into something with a little more elegance and edge is up for debate, but if anyone can do it, it’s Rei Kawakubo. For more information on DSM’s stateside arrival, read our Q&A with Comme des Garçons CEO Adrian Joffe.