LONDON — Rei Kawakubo, a designer at the forefront of fashions that are destroyed and frayed, has translated that groundbreaking idea into a building form.
Her new Dover Street Market, a 13,000-square-foot multibrand emporium that opens to the public here on Saturday, is a gritty alternative to the typical designer temple, with rusting corrugated metal instead of wenge wood and construction site Porta-Potties in lieu of plush dressing rooms.
“It’s taking that concept [of imperfection] to the extreme. For my eye, it’s beautiful,” Kawakubo told WWD as she admired hulking shelves made of recovered plywood, much of it flown in at great expense from her native Japan. “I think creating retail spaces like this is an integral part of the design world of Comme des Garçons.”
Kawakubo, also making waves with her sprawling network of “guerrilla” stores, has said she wanted an atmosphere of “chaos” for her new London outpost, in which Comme des Garçons brands rub shoulders with stands offered to the likes of Lanvin, Raf Simons and the antique dealer Emma Hawkins.
That was certainly the case Thursday, as teams of Japanese and English construction workers scrambled to ready the store for a grand unveiling to the international press today. Azzedine Alaïa, selling everything from Jean Prouve furniture to his clingy dresses on the first floor, had to duck out of harm’s way as metal girders and planks, which pass for shelving in Kawakubo’s world, were maneuvered into place.
As unfinished as the store appeared Thursday at noon, Kawakubo, dressed in a crumpled red jacket and MC Hammer-style pants, oversaw every detail and designed most of the fixtures. Meanwhile, her husband, Adrian Joffe, who is also Comme des Garçons’ managing director in Europe, orchestrated the mix of vendors and hammered out almost two dozen concession agreements with the likes of Hedi Slimane (for furniture) to Japanese fashion label Undercover, which naturally chose the basement of the six-story complex.
Joffe said it cost about 1 million pounds, or $1.8 million at current exchange, to build the store, which is expected to generate first-year volume of 5 million pounds, or $9 million, and to reach profitability within a year.
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