Dover Street Market is going big.
On Thursday, in celebration of NYFW, Dover Street Market debuted new Comme des Garçons spring deliveries, a number of fresh brand displays and six first-time “installations,” or brand-designed pop-ins, by both well-known designers including Maison Margiela and emerging brands like Itchy Scratchy Patchy, the clothing and accessories label by model Edie Campbell and artist Christabel MacGreevy.
Campbell said she and MacGreevy jumped at the chance to sell in the store.
“The advice, support and opportunities that being brought into the DSM fold brings are really extraordinary,” Campbell said. “[The store] has an incomparable, global reach, plus it allows us total creative freedom.”
Vogue.com contributing fashion editor Lynn Yaeger, who frequents multiple Dover Street Market locations in the name of research, echoed Campbell, saying being picked up by Dover Street Market is incredibly meaningful for emerging talent. “They will take labels that are very, very new, and it’s incredibly encouraging for very young designers,” she said.
For their installation, Campbell and MacGreevy decided to translate the idea of being a British brand in New York. “Ninety percent of our manufacturing happens in the U.K., and we think tartan is a good reflection of British manufacturing,” Campbell said. So, as a backdrop, they’re using a large patchwork wall hanging, which lists the names of the heroes who inspired the collection. Featured styles include trousers made in collaboration with Dickies and an embroidered jacket made with Lewis Leathers.
The new Itchy Scratchy Patchy installation at New York’s Dover Street Market (Courtesy of Adrian Wilson)
Dover Street Market opened its first store in London’s Haymarket district in 2004. Now four locations strong and planning further expansion — a fifth store, opening in LA this summer — it’s provided successful case studies for a number of retail strategies that are finally catching on. Namely, offering up unique experiences, like in-store dining and brand-driven activations (Know Wave has hosted a radio show from the London flagship), ignoring popular industry parameters and playing nice with brands will keep shoppers coming back.
At a time when physical retail is largely struggling, the multi-level concept store, started by Commes des Garçons founder Rei Kawakubo and her husband, Adrian Joffe, who serves as CEO of both companies, has been growing: In July, it opened its fourth location, in Singapore, and added an eighth, basement floor to its 25,000-square-foot store in New York’s Murray Hill, which opened in 2013. (It also has a location in Tokyo.)
Commes des Garçons and Dover Street Market reportedly see a combined annual revenue of over $280 million. In 2016, Dover Street Market stores accounted for 98 million of that, with 90 percent of those sales coming from in-store purchases. For the most part, the inventory is consistent across stores and the e-commerce site.
Thanks to Kawakubo’s creative direction, the brick-and-mortar stores are really the draw. In addition to all Comme des Garçons–dedicated spaces (which individually spotlight the company’s 18 brands, including Comme des Garçons, Comme des Garçons Homme Deux, Junya Watanabe and Noir Kei Ninomiya), Kawakubo designs all areas that are not occupied by a brand. Those include common areas, the changing rooms, the elevator and the store’s “perfume tower.”
But as for the brand-assigned areas, she’s completely hands-off. It’s key to the retailer’s ethos, forever dedicated to a theme of “beautiful chaos.” Dozens of brands collide under one roof, providing accidental, synergistic energy. All Kawakubo looks for in the brands the store hosts is that they bring something original to the table.
The new Maison Margiela installation at New York’s Dover Street Market (Courtesy of Adrian Wilson)
The store’s brands represent a range of styles and price points: Since its opening, the New York location has had exclusive Nike and Supreme spaces, as well as areas reserved for T-shirts and sneakers. In addition, shoppers will find Gucci on the top floor, a dedicated Balenciaga space, and styles by Alaia and Vetements.
“It’s a much more modern take on a department store,” said Yaeger. “Make that: It’s a department store for quirky, weird people who don’t find anything in a normal department store.”
There are no “men’s” and “women’s” departments. All shoppers are encouraged to start on the top floor and work their way down using the stairs to best interact with the clothing and take it all in. Sound artist Calx Vive has curated moments of silents, noise, music and disruption throughout the store, to enhance the experience. En route, shoppers will find Rose Bakery, where they can stop for a bite.
Rather than adhere to a schedule reflective of the CFDA’s official fashion calendar, Dover Street Market has adopted a model it calls New Beginning: Every January and July, all locations shut down for several days — the number depends on the scope of the changes — to completely overhaul the former setup. All sales merchandise is removed, old installations are replaced, and new merchandise, which typically includes a number of exclusives, is displayed.
Last month, the New York location closed for two days and reopened on January 13, with new installations from brands including Thom Browne, Jacquemus and Jil Sander.
“What makes [Dover Street Market] different is the buyers are not afraid to buy new lines and quirky lines other stores might shy away from,” Yaeger said. “They have the haute-bourgeoisie labels every other store has, too, but they seem more interesting when they’re at Dover Street. I’d love to give you some examples, but they’re changing the inventory all the time.”
Image: The Junya Watanabe installation at New York’s Dover Street Market, courtesy of Adrian Wilson