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Dover Street Martet Simone Rocha

The dA-Zed guide to Dover Street Market

As the legendary store relocates to Haymarket, we chronicle everything you need to know about it

Fashion, it has been said, is an industry populated by the people who never quite fitted in at school. If that’s the case, then Dover Street Market – the radical retail space founded by Rei Kawakubo and Adrian Joffe of Comme des Garçons – is the metaphorical locker room, the place where outsiders can duck out of the real world and be welcomed into an environment full of people just like them. When they founded DSM in 2004, Kawakubo and Joffe threw out the rulebook that dictated how a luxury store should look, and with it the totalitarian homogeneity that apparently declared that every one of a fashion house’s shops across the globe should have walls the exact same hue, or come with identical imagery on display.

Instead, inspired by the riotous beginnings of the now-demolished Kensington Market – a one-building hub of British style and subculture for four decades – they created a place where they could sell their own designs alongside those of their peers, nurturing and supporting emerging talent as they did so. After a slow start (Joffe says it took a good few years for people to get to grips with what they were trying to do) the business boomed, with shoppers and industry vets alike recognising the brilliant harmony in the way artistic expression and commercial potential coexisted within its walls. So great is the power of DSM that it’s become a synecdoche – say the words ‘Dover Street’ to anyone with even a passing interest in fashion and they’ll finish your sentence ‘Market’.

This weekend, however, DSM is moving from the street that gave it its name. Having outgrown its original location (and facing tripled rent costs) the beloved store has found a new home on Haymarket, and looks set to transform the street from a tourist back alley into a creative mecca – and the £500m being pumped into the area by the Crown Estate won’t hurt either. Ahead of its grand opening tomorrow, get familiar with the ins and outs of the world’s most boundary-breaking shop – from impromptu Patti Smith performances to Gosha Rubchinskiy fanboys and its infamous Market Market archive sales.


Since its inception over a decade ago, DSM has brilliantly balanced the fine line between concept and consumption. A strong part of this is the connections it has forged with creators, challenging preconceptions of what a retail space should be by transforming it into a place where art and shopping can co-exist. Names including notorious art duo Jake and Dinos Chapman, punk graphic artist Jamie Reid, the Keith Haring Foundation and set designer Gary Card have contributed windows, while DSM has collaborated with the Frieze Art Fair, the Michael Hoppen Gallery and the ICA to showcase work throughout the store.


Two words that come up time and time again when discussing Dover Street? “Beautiful chaos.” First used by Kawakubo when describing the store back in 2004, the phrase epitomises the visionary nature of DSM, a place where different people from different creative worlds come together to shop side by side, where the spaces created by designers are as important as the clothes housed within them, and where you might just find yourself trying something on in an old portacabin turned changing room or paying at a tin hut till. As Joffe recently told The Business of Fashion, “We’re not a company that makes five-year plans.” Their approach is more spontaneous, intuitive and creative than that.

“In Japan recently, Burberry opened a multi-million dollar flagship store. (Dover Street Market) will be the antithesis of that” – Rei Kawakubo


“In Japan recently, Burberry opened a multi-million dollar flagship store,” Rei Kawakubo told Susannah Frankel in Dazed’s September 2004 issue. “(Dover Street Market) will be the antithesis of that. Fortunately, we haven’t got a lot of money so we can’t afford marble floors. We have to find an idea that won’t cost too much.” When it comes to interiors, the manifesto for DSM was deliberately anti-luxury. This has extended not just to the original store, where the floors were poured concrete, but to Haymarket, where the existing wooden floors have been replaced by the industrial material.


A Mayfair street known for its private members clubs might seem like an unlikely place for one of the world’s most forward-thinking retail stores, but Dover Street has a rich cultural history. As well as the street itself housing several galleries, the DSM premises were formerly home to the ICA, who credit the building with being the birthplace of pop art and Brutalist architecture, the meeting place of the Independent Group, and where, according to their website, “some of the most important shows in the history of post-war British art” were staged, “as well as ground-breaking exhibitions by Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Pablo Picasso and Jackson Pollock.”


One of the most remarkable elements of DSM is its market mentality, the way that brands come together under one roof with nothing to distinguish a newly-stocked, emerging designer from one of fashion’s most established names. As Joffe said in the new issue of AnOther Magazine, “It’s true that we don’t distinguish between men and women, cheap and expensive, new, strong creation and timeless tradition, and we don’t dumb down to the lowest common denominator in terms of the desires and aspirations of our customer.”


The original store was divided across six floors, from the Basement on -1, which housed contemporary menswear, sneakers and IDEA, to the ground floor with its perfume tower, the glittering mirrored Saint Laurent space on the third floor, and the balcony of the Rose Bakery on the fourth. The new Haymarket store will have five stories, with each floor having its own theme and installation. There’s “Frankenstein” by Catherine Wagner in the Basement, while on the ground floor will be the iconic DSM hut, the first will have gold panelling conceived by Comme des Garçons with Pirosmani, the second a metal dinosaur designed by Kawakubo, and the third another installation by the designer.


Although a collaborative store in Beijing with Chinese retailers IT was opened in 2011, followed by a New York Store in 2013, the first DSM outside of London was established in Tokyo’s Ginza district in 2006. Arranged across seven stories, the store came with replica huts mirroring those in London, and is a place Kawakubo has said that she hopes “fashion becomes fascinating.”


“It’s bloody huge.” So said Adrian Joffe of DSM’s new Haymarket store, which safe to say, is something of an upgrade. With a colossal 31,000 square feet of floor space (that’s over 20,000 square feet bigger than the original DSM), the shop is located in a listed building a stone’s throw from Piccadilly that was built in 1911 and was, for a over a hundred years, the HQ of Burberry. In preparation for the opening, the original doors at the front of the building have been relocated to a more low-key side-street, and photographs of the renovation have been drip-fed via the AnOther Magazine Instagram page. Original inhabits Burberry will be present too, with a range of archive trenches which have been redesigned by Kawakubo.


Founded by David Owen and Angela Hill, IDEA are the beloved booksellers of DSM, who previously took up residence in the shop’s Basement. Selling everything from limited edition photobooks by the likes of Vetements, Gosha Rubchinskiy and Willy Vanderperre (to name just a few recent examples), to rare, archival magazines and a slew of influential ‘superbooks’, they are renowned for their brilliant curation and equally brilliant Instagram captions. If you’re in the market for one of their famed tote bags, IDEA will be pride of place in the new Haymarket store, with some exciting (and top secret) new launches planned for 2016.


Dover Street’s patriarch, if such an authoritarian concept could ever be aligned with a place of radicalism. The South African-born Adrian Joffe is the partner of Rei Kawakubo, having joined the company in 1987 and married the designer in 1992. Joffe speaks five languages (including Japanese and Tibetan) and acts as Kawakubo’s translator – verbalising her ideas to the press even in her absence. As the president of both Comme des Garçons and Dover Street Market, Joffe oversees the company and is responsible for its commercial growth.

“(Rei Kawakubo) can’t check all the brands. If it were only things she likes, there’d be nothing in it” – Adrian Joffe


After almost forty years in fashion, it feels like the inimitable Rei Kawakubo – whose very presence at a fashion show can spark headlines, as it did at Gosha Rubchinskiy’s latest runway back in January – really needs no introduction. When it comes to DSM, she is involved on a visual level rather than a day-to-day one, directing the aesthetics and creative point of view of the stores. “She can’t check all the brands,” Joffe recently told the Financial Times. “If it were only things she likes, there’d be nothing in it.”


Lighting will be a key part of the new Haymarket store, with Kawakubo personally inviting artists from across the globe to create installations that will go far beyond the practical purpose of illuminating merchandise. A photograph posted to the DSM Instagram shows a series of neon lights suspended like modern stalactites from the ceiling. “They will be works of art in their own right,” Joffe told AnOther. “I hope it works.”


Rare, beloved events that come around only every few years, a Market Market is an official DSM jumble sale, where unsold archive stock is piled (literally) into relatively far-flung locations for friends and family to rummage through. This isn’t your ordinary fashion clear out or sample sale – one year the theme was Cardboard City, with boxes upon boxes piled up and transformed into art installations (and plenty of Comme for 70% off the RRP, of course).


Tachiagari, meaning “beginning” or “start” was the name that was formerly given to DSM’s twice annual revamp, where the store closes down for a few days, reopening with new collections, designer areas and curated spaces. While stock is updated frequently, this closure was conceived from the beginning as a key part of Kawakubo and Joffe’s vision, provoking seasonal changes that go beyond the clothes on the rails and usher in an entire store-wide rebirth.


Of course, such an environment needs an equally impressive sound system. For the new store, the enigmatic Brooklyn-based sound artist Calx Vive has returned to collaborate with DSM once more, having previously created a score for DSMNY. The concept is to use different audio configurations on each floor, where “textural sounds will be combined and juxtaposed with a carefully curated selection of eclectic music”. Thus the music will provide an aural translation of, you guessed it, beautiful chaos. Promised samples and inspirations include: “tunes of the fourth and fifth dimensions”, “a gleaming bat cave with filament lights”, and “continents that sank but left their mysteries”.


In 2014, Ann Demeulemeester released her richly visual, 1000-plus page monograph with Rizzoli. To celebrate, an intimate launch at DSM was planned, where none other than Patti Smith arrived to do a reading from the introduction she had penned. After paying tribute to her designer friend, thanking her for sending her a treasured gift at a time “of deep loneliness”, Smith began to perform – even playing an impromptu number with fellow musical icon PJ Harvey, who was in the crowd.


Queues have become something of a regular occurrence at DSM, thanks to the tendency of the brands or designers they stock to attract a certain cult or ‘fanboy’ following – two cases in point, Gosha Rubchinskiy and Supreme. The launch of the Russian designer-slash-photographer’s 2015 book Youth Hotel saw hoards of his fans lining up outside the store, clamouring to get their hands on one of its 500 copies. Supreme’s Damien Hirst collab triggered a similar phenomenon, as did the release of the Apple watch last year and Vetements’ 2015 photo book.


It’s not easy being a designer that operates beyond the “big four” fashion cities. Despite having sold collections at DSM (the first store outside of his native Russia) in the early days of his label, cult favourite Gosha Rubchinskiy ran into difficulty shipping large orders from Moscow. In 2012, he found support in Comme des Garçons, who agreed to help him with production, and since the brand has become an unstoppable force. DSM has become a mecca for teenage Gosha fans, desperate to get a piece of the latest drop (according to the Business of Fashion, SS16 sold out in two days).


In December 2005, Britain’s most beloved hatmaker Stephen Jones took over the entire store for an immersive exhibition marking 25 years. Food-inspired hats were up on the third floor by Rose Bakery, while Hitchcockian pieces influenced by The Birds adorned the roof of the Market’s tin hut. Along with collaborations for Comme des Garçons, hats on display were drawn from Jones’s work for Walter Van Beirendonck, John Galliano, Givenchy, Lanvin and Jean Paul Gaultier, among others. To mark the exhibition, the entire Basement floor was hung with hats, available for only £40 – with £10 going to the M.A.C. Aids fund.


Rose Carrarini (Joffe’s sister) founded Rose Bakery in Paris with her French husband Jean-Charles in 2002. A daring proposition for a city with a proud culinary reputation – the small café was distinctly British – Rose Bakery proved to be a success. In 2005, they brought it to London, where it took up residence on DSM’s sunny third floor, its long line of wooden tables often populated by an intriguing mix of visitors. The bakery (which can also be found in the New York and Ginza stores) will have its own expanded spot in Haymarket complete with a new menu, and has books, bags and aprons available to buy.


For such a renowned fashion institution, it might be surprising to know that DSM wasn’t a success to begin with – after all, a concept so innovative took some getting used to (a good few years worth in this case). Still, Joffe and Kawakbo stuck to their guns. That DSM is a place of great creativity doesn’t mean it’s a free-for-all, however: designers have very strict rules when creating their in-store spaces. Walls cannot touch the inner structure of the building or be above a certain height, Primarily, they have to be cheap, so they can be changed often. But of course, rules are made to be broken...


Since bursting onto the Paris scene for SS15 with a collection of thigh high boots and oversize tailoring, Vetements have gained an unprecedented amount of momentum, becoming one of the industry’s most recognisable and buzzed-about brands. They’ve released a photo book with IDEA, and now to celebrate the new Haymarket store, head designer Demna Gvasalia is working on something new. “We are just starting an amazing project with good exciting energy and prospects,” shares Gvasalia in the new issue of AnOther. “It’s about to become a long-term partnership.”

“We’re looking forward. That’s what’s in our DNA and that’s what we try to do. What is the future, what do people want, what can we give them that they don’t know they want yet?” – Adrian Joffe


The names of the brands who have contributed windows to DSM reads like a fashion encyclopedia. Chanel has moved in with CC-decorated Union Jacks, set designer Gary Card has filled it with some caricature-like busts splattered with fluorescent paint and Dazed 100 designer Molly Goddard has turned it into an artist’s studio, filled with paint pots, brushes and canvases. Rei Kawakubo even recreated reinterprets her cult art and photography magazine SIX by installing images from the archives behind the glass. The art and fashion worlds’ most brilliant established and emerging talents have all been enlisted to recreate the space.


For their tenth anniversary in 2014, DSM was focussed on looking to the future rather than the past, dubbing the birthday The Next Ten Years. In-store, designers created special, limited edition products (the range was dubbed Market Street Dover) and the window display featured Nicolas Ghesquière’s first collection for Louis Vuitton. A special, limited edition of Werk Magazine was produced by founder Theseus Chan, featuring images of the store that had been reimagined to project a vision of the future. “We’re looking forward,” Joffe told Dazed. “That’s what’s in our DNA and that’s what we try to do. What is the future, what do people want, what can we give them that they don’t know they want yet?”


Both Joffe and Kawakubo are ardent supporters of fashion’s next generations of talents and they’ve always put their money where their mouths are by stocking these designers. Whether it’s Craig Green, Liam Hodges, Molly Goddard or Phoebe English, DSM has always been one of the places to discover and buy emerging brands. At a time where social media followers contribute to a young designer’s credibility, Joffe isn’t having any of it. “I don’t care (about their social media following). We like things that are sometimes under the radar,” he told AnOther. “For us, going back to the beginning, the product is the most important. We can’t deceive the customers. We can’t buy rubbish just because everybody’s talking about it.”


As well as a selection of the finest products contemporary fashion can offer, the store has also housed various creatures – most famously, octopuses. In 2009, Les Trois Garçons installed a large black octopus with suckers that resembled Comme’s infamous polka-dots and last year, Craig Green crafted one out of blue tarpaulin. In 2009, Tim Walker filled the window display with a rookery of penguins and earlier this year, the entrance played host to a glass cabinet containing some taxidermy birds. Strange creatures will also be found in the store’s new Haymarket home – the second floor will house an enormous silver dinosaur designed by Rei Kawakubo.

Lead image: DSM photography Ryan O’Toole Collett (@ryanotoolecollett), portrait Chris Rhodes