In a sprawling old meat warehouse in downtown Los Angeles, a life-size hippo sculpture stands guard – speechless and crates of milk recessed into its side – marketed with jars of jam. Around the corner, an out of print book on ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arranging, sits on a shelf next to screen-printed T-shirts bearing images taken from its pages. At a street address, but in the same building, a Parisian designer’s fall and winter 2018 clothing collection hangs on reused fitness equipment. The space in between is a labyrinth of retail spaces bounded by meters of chain link fence, gracefully curving galvanized metal walls, and hand-placed ceramic subway tile bone white walls. .
Welcome to Dover Street Market Los Angeles, the latest retail curio cabinet from the creators of the Comme des Garçons brand. Officially open on November 3, this is an ambitious 15,000 square foot offering aimed at luring luxury shoppers from their spun cocoons on the Internet to a veritable brick and mortar space – and one in the downtown arts without a single street level window at it.
“She hates windows,” says Comme des Garçons chief executive Adrian Joffe on a recent visit to space – she is the wife of Joffe, Comme des Garçons creator Rei Kawakubo, who has conceptualized space. “So our windows are going to be two event spaces. These two 150-square-foot spaces, he explains, will house rotating art installations (upon opening, one is an assortment of dressed-up dinosaurs – a collaboration between Kawakubo and artist Shimoda Masakatsu, the other has a Basquiat theme). Don’t worry, however, the space is not devoid of sunlight, which enters through skylights high in the vaulted ceiling.
In a pre-opening interview at the company’s Paris headquarters last month, and again on tour last week, Joffe takes great care to highlight what he calls a “cross-sectional hut.” – a massive, wall-like structure that crosses the middle of the two adjoining buildings. He says Kawakubo envisioned the strip of corrugated metal, bleached white wood, and white subway tiles as “connective tissue.” “They aren’t walls,” he said emphatically, “but you’re probably going to call them walls, right? “
Windowless windows, wallless walls, and an off-the-beaten-path location so random it all requires the use of a mapping app (though you think you can navigate to the corner of Imperial Streets on your own). and 6th) may seem like a recipe for business disaster, but Joffe and Kawakubo have built their stable of Comme des Garçons brands (currently over a dozen) and five other Dover Street Market retail spaces around the world (the first opened in London in 2004, the only other US outpost opened in New York in 2013) to be resolutely and creatively oppositional.
This means a retail mix that ranges from some of the most well-known luxury brands on the planet (Prada and a cabinet full of Chanel jewelry to start with, with Gucci’s Chateau Marmont capsule collection set to release soon) to brands from streetwear under the radar liking Brain death (the Los Angeles label responsible for the aforementioned hippo sculpture and jam jars – the latter a quince-flavored collaboration with Sqirl Jessica Koslow who debuted when the store opened) and Doublet, a Tokyo-based label whose creator, Masayuki Ino, landed on 2018 LVMH Prize earlier this year and whose playful, flowing pieces include things like screen-printed t-shirts that riff on the Hollywood sign using rearrangable Velcro letters.
Other labels in the mix include Maison Margiela, Stussy, Sacai, Raf Simons, the white-hot Off-White label of Virgil Abloh and Thom Browne (and that’s barely – and we barely mean – the edge of the DSM Iceberg), as well as brands that mark the opening of their first retail space in Los Angeles such as Brendon Babenzien’s New York-based menswear brand Noah and British skate brand Palace.
Other remarkable spaces to discover include Idea books (they have books and ikebana T-shirts as well as tote bags emblazoned with the word ‘drugs’ or ‘talent’), a collaboration between Nike and Eli Russell Linnetz (a photographer and director who worked with Kim Kardashian, Kanye West and Lady Gaga) which is heavy on lime green corduroy button down shirts, and a west coast outpost of Pink bakery, a popular restaurant that has made its home in several other stores in Dover Street Market.
The emphasis on art and retail means there’s something beautifully bizarre about almost every corner (and even above – in the form of artist-commissioned chandeliers). At the opening which includes furry pillars and gaping mouth that watch over the goods of the French clothing brand Jacquemus like the totems designed by Sid and Marty Krofft, the world’s first permanent space for Marine Serre – the French designer who won the 2017 LVMH award – which consists of the fitness equipment mentioned above – with a video monitor looping the brand’s latest campaign nailed for good measure serving as the backdrop for an assortment of Khaki-colored Saharan dresses, dresses fashioned from draped scarves in recycled silk and mint green ribbed knit sweaters.
Kyle Ng, co-founder of the 4-year-old Brain Dead label, which also has a presence in other stores in Dover Street Market (DSM), said having the freedom to create whatever he wanted on the spot was a big deal. part of the draw. .
“DSM has always really supported us and let us do our own thing. We really love the art and the sculptural stuff, ”he said, pointing to the hippo in the room. “Clothing is secondary to us… so it’s amazing to have the opportunity to do things the way you want. (Regarding the hippo, Ng explains this due to his long-standing fascination with taxidermy. The milk crates, he says, are a callback to the Brain Dead studio space, which is filled with it. .)
Those unfamiliar with how Dover Street Markets work around the world should note that everything described above could well be gone in a matter of months. Indeed, in keeping with the general theme of “beautiful chaos”, all stores close for several days in January and June for a biennial “fresh start”, during which the interior and matching designer spaces evolve, restart and restock.
As for the broader question of whether shoppers will seek the emporium of all things eclectic – and open their wallets if they do – the November 2 press and VIP event the day before the store officially opens. (which drew Diane Keaton and Tommy Hilfiger, among others) saw three of the store’s checkout packs with lines of at least nine people, each customer standing in line with an armful of merchandise to buy.
Dover Street Market Los Angeles, open Monday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday noon to 6 p.m., 606-608 Imperial St., Los Angeles
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