Having just opened in Tokyo’s Ginza district, it seems more than apt to pay homage to one of the world’s most interesting fashion meccas- Dover Street Market. And whilst it seems difficult to talk about a store without sounding like a keen PR eager to maximise publicity, but as a passionate fashion journalist, it is safe to write about the incredible individuality of Dover Street Market and more importantly, its significance in contemporary shopping times. One of London’s most important stores, DSM is where fashion fascinates and transcends- it is a place of inspiration for both male and female audiences.
Located in London’s Mayfair, Dover Street Market opened in 1994 and has served as a landmark to the fashion savvy ever since. The store is created, curated and owned by one of fashion’s queens, Rei Kawakubo, creative director and genius behind the label Comme Des Garcons. The brand is synonymous with subversion and deconstruction- its garments carrying intellectual credibility and this fuses through the whole store. It is ‘beautiful chaos’, a phenomenon that Kawakubo has been able to not only portray through her clothes, but also through an architectural, consumerist space.
Showing and selling Comme Des Garcons alongside labels such as Azzedine Alaia, Gareth Pugh and Rick Owens, Dover Street Market lends itself to not only being a space of high-end fashion but also an exhibition space, commissioning artists such as Matt Clark, Jake and Dinos Chapman and Maureen Doherty. Designers such as Alber Elbaz for Lanvin are given creative freedom to showcase their collections, breeding a wealth of possibilities for presentation. In conjunction with this, every floor is a floor for itself, showcasing a plethora of designers in their own right.
Furthermore, the store undergoes a biannual Tachiagari (meaning ‘beginning/start’ in Japanese) and closes its doors for a creative refurbishment. When reopened, DSM provides a new vision, having evolved and changed creatively- just like fashion itself.Together and yet apart from each other, each designer collection and artistic installation is given a space to shine. Telling Interview magazine, Kawakubo (notorious for her lack of interviews and communication with press) showed the importance of tachiagari.
‘Creation takes things forward. Without anything new there is no progress. Creation equals new.’
It is an incredible synergy, one which in a way echoes a postmodernist bricolage- a theory and practice that brings together a variety of inspirations and references and breeds them all together, resulting in a sublime response- one of awe. And if it is a bricolaic method that Rei Kawakubo and husband Adrian Joffe are applying, then it is ultimately, working its magic. In DSM, every floor is specifically constructed- Raf Simons featuring next to vintage Versace for example on floor 2- and the potency of such juxtapositions draws from the shopper more than just mere desire to spend. Presented and displayed in a space which comes close to creating a fashionable sublime, each designer collection becomes more than just a commodity- it becomes something that we want to wear and that we become connected to. Ultimately, it becomes a thing of understanding the piece that we are buying and the desire to wear it outside because of personal motivation rather than just being on trend.
What is perhaps most interesting about the store and Rei Kawakubo is the dichotomy between art, fashion and business. Kawakubo’s CDG is one of fashion’s most iconic and important brands. As creative director, Kawakubo conveys messages that echo social situations and further impact its audience (just look at the CDG A/W ‘12/’13 with its focus on 2D and its overall comment on the ever-growing 2D and shallow world), but she has never pretended that she creates art. In an interview, Kawakubo said ‘My work has never been as an artist. I have only continued all these years to try to “make a business with creation’, and it is perhaps baffling for a designer of such epic genius and power- both in creation and what her collections have meant for the fashion industry- to say such modest things.
Then again, perhaps here is genius coupled with the utmost honesty, for fashion is a business, Comme Des Garcons is a brand and Dover Street Market is a shop. Yet, such a brand and such a shop only serve as timely reminders that in today’s crazy, colourful (postmodernist?) world, we can place together genuine creativity with business.
‘The decision to first of all think of creating something that didn’t exist before, and then after that to give the creation form and expression in a way that can be made into a business. I cannot separate being a designer from being a businesswoman. It’s one and the same thing for me.’
(Kawakubo in interview with WSJ magazine)
Dover Street Market is not a weekly guaranteed shopping trip as its prices require a more careful investment rather than just quick flings. And thankfully so. But its power and pull is that one can enter the store to just expose themselves to the unparalleled interactions between fashion and art, beauty and creativity, past, present and future. We should all want to afford beautiful chaos, and if we cannot, at least we can expose ourselves to it.
‘There are no limits.’
(Rei Kawakubo in Interview Magazine)
By Bojana Kozarevic