Ten years after Dover Street Market, the retail arm of Comme des Garçons, transformed the fashion landscape in London’s Mayfair, the edgy, multi-brand store is on the move to Haymarket, south of Piccadilly Circus.
The new site for DSM will be the original Burberry building from 1911, by architect Walter Cave. It was built as the proud flagship of the military brand, but Burberry left in 2008.
Although Adrian Joffe, the partner in life and in business of Comme des Garçons, reached in Paris, declined to comment, information we found on-line says that the building is part of Lord Alan Sugar’s property portfolio. Sugar acquired the building in November 2013. Sugar’s website (www.amsprop.com) describes the building: “The property consists of 2 linked buildings with an impressive panelled circular staircase linking the basement through to the 2nd floors. This property will be subject to a major refurbishment programme, with retail planned for the basement and ground floor and offices for the 1st, 2nd and 3rd floors.”
This week’s Property Week claims that Comme des Garçons has signed a 20-year deal with Amsprop, Lord Sugar’s property company.
The news will send London’s luxury players spinning — not least Victoria Beckham, who has just opened her first store worldwide in a strategic position directly opposite the Dover Street Market store, which is known to pull in an eclectic crowd of dedicated shoppers to its multi-brand six-floor universe.
Even more significant is the fact that Comme des Garçons has a history of daring to open in unexpected, even hidden, spaces, some of which have brought entire neighbourhoods to fashionable life — for example the Aoyama area of Tokyo.
A year ago, New York retailers were stunned by the opening of a New York Dover Street Market in a former school in a completely uncharted retail area among the Indian restaurants of Lexington Avenue at Murray Hill. Dover Street Market has also expanded in Asia from Tokyo to Beijing.
Adrian Joffe was tight-lipped about the news – even though I saw him at the British Fashion Awards, where he was sitting on the Louis Vuitton table. Our host Pierre Yves Roussel, CEO of Fashion at LVMH, told me during the dinner that he considered Adrian as one of the world’s exceptional retail managers.
(Maybe that is why Louis Vuitton’s new collections from Nicolas Ghesquière have appeared in the DSM stores — an unprecedented move for both brands.)
I would agree that Joffe’s skills are aligned with other powerful and original retailers such as Carla Sozzani ‘s 10 Corso Como in Milan and Sarah Andelman at Colette in Paris.
Joffe himself, president of Dover Street Market, would be the first to say that he does not manage DSM on his own. Rei Kawakubo herself is a vital part of the driving force.
I have always wanted to understand how that partnership works for the stores, both creatively and practically.
I had recently been talking to Adrian before I discovered about the London store ‘s change of venue. As we walked together around the re-furnished Dover Street store, with all its enticing areas, I saw Pharrell Williams, promoting his new fragrance.
Another success has been the slow but powerful build-up of an edgy fragrance empire.
To celebrate the first 10 years of Dover Street Market in London — and now its unexpected future move — here is Adrian Joffe in his own words.
SUZY: How much is Rei herself involved in Dover Street Market? Does she make decisions, such as whether to stock Louis Vuitton? Does she make suggestions?
ADRIAN: Rei is very involved in DSM, most particularly from the visual and design point of view as well as the overall concept. She designs the overall architecture, common areas, general brand areas, and all CDG brand spaces. And we show her the designs of all the brands which have their own spaces and installations and window displays. But all [major] decisions such as who to invite, who and what to buy, are made by me, with my teams. As for these decisions, like Vuitton etc, I do my best to keep [Rei] fully informed. She very rarely makes suggestions, just constantly urges me to find good, creative, strong clothes.
SUZY: Do you ask Rei for advice or approval — or is it about trusting each other?
ADRIAN: Trust is a major part of our working relationship about DSM and in general. There is simply not enough time to show her everything concerning MD, all the brands, events, parties etc. Yet as much as possible, I ask her advice about all things, and for all things visual, I need her approval. It is clear to me that without Rei, DSM would not exist in its present form, and without her constant pushing and urging to go forward and find new things and new ideas, we would not have anything near as strong in ten years compared to what we have now.
SUZY: What is your vision for the next 10 years?
ADRIAN: We want to make DSM stronger and stronger and more and more exciting, not only as a retail experience but also as a place for conversation, the sharing of ideas – where accidental synergies can arise, where people can interact openly and see the possibilities of being different. We want to be a store that can directly and indirectly give courage to young designers and luxury brands alike to pursue the path of creation and freedom, and encourage individual anti-corporate expression. And all this to especially counter the many doomsayers who say the shop as we know it will be dead in a few years due to internet shopping and the like.
SUZY: What was the purpose of the 10-year changes in Dover Street and your celebrations in September? Were you aiming for a different look? Or a different customer?
ADRIAN: We wanted to take the occasion of the tenth anniversary to look forward to the next ten years as well as simply celebrate what we have done so far, and honestly, simply to have an excuse to have a whole month of events, give the chance to many of our designers to do something special and create a little space, and refresh the interior design of as much of the store as we could. So it made us think hard about where we are going and what we can do better… I guess, as with all anniversaries, it offered us a chance for reflection as well as celebration.
SUZY: Do you think of DSM as part of a group of forward-looking retailers, for example 10 Corso Como or Colette? Or do you feel that you are unique — in London and New York?
ADRIAN: I don’t think anyone likes being boxed into any categories, and we certainly do not think we are part of any group. I believe we are all very different in look and concept and raison d’être, but it’s nice to know that there are other retailers out there who work as crazily hard as we do, and I have been very happy to divide up the cities of the world with Sarah and Carla. You will notice we are not in the same city, anywhere…!