New year, new you. Does fashion iconoclast Rei Kawakubo subscribe to such a seasonal platitude? It seems so, at least when it comes to retail.
Dover Street Market New York’s New Beginning, Comme des Garçons’ biannual practice formerly known as Tachiagari — a made-up Japanese word by Kawakubo — opened Saturday. It’s seasonal remerchandising on steroids. The store closed for three days, which the company’s chief executive officer Adrian Joffe estimated sacrificed about $120,000 or so in sales, to overhaul the interior, setting up new spaces, bringing in new designers, giving successful ones more square footage on the sales floor and creating a number of installations, including the store’s first by Kawakubo herself. Blood and Roses, a set of red paint and red looks from the Comme des Garçons spring collection, is on the first floor.
Transforming the store and closing for three business days is a sizable investment, expensive and labor-intensive. Asked how it pays off, Joffe said,
“It’s the abstract thing. It’s image. It’s a promotion budget, in a way. We put it in that section. In the long run for the image of Dover Street, you can’t measure [the value]. We have always believed image is the most important and then business grows.”
The interior changes of the store are many, but perhaps the most significant are Miu Miu’s first store on the third floor, where there’s also a dedicated space for Idea Books, the art and fashion book resource with a very active Instagram account that’s garnered a cult fashion following. Simone Rocha has also earned a slot where Louis Vuitton was previously. The top-floor Prada space, which was decorated with the Brutalista photo collages from the fall campaign, has been completely redone.
The New Beginning falls just after DSMNY’s first anniversary. Taking stock of the year’s over- and underperformers influenced several of the new spaces. Joffe found that men’s streetwear, such as Nike and Supreme, were standouts. Thus, new men’s collections include OAMC, Juun.J x Adidas and Julien David x Quicksilver. For women’s, the luxury customer is increasingly important, so much so that Joffe and Kawakubo decided to create a new luxury women’s space on the fifth floor to house brands including Erdem, Giambattista Valli, Valentino, Martina Spetlova, Loewe and Nina Ricci. On the sixth floor, there is a new creative women’s space for 1205, Aganovich, Alexander Wang, Andre Walker, Christopher Kane, Phoebe English, Melitta Baumeister and more.
There’s also a shop for the newest designer to have his own collection under the Comme des Garçons umbrella. Noir Kei Ninomiya is based in Tokyo and is known for punky, shredded leather. Fine jewelry and watches have also proven to be top categories, with new designers on the store’s first-floor jewelry section including Raphaele Canot, Hum and Shannon Nataf.
Reflecting on DSMNY’s first year in business, Joffe said there have been surprises in terms of the customer. For example, a big growth market has been non-Americans. “It’s a beautiful chaos,” said Joffe. “You’ve got all kinds of customers. It takes time for it to settle down and for people to know the store is for them. People like the shop but some people have been confused. There are still a lot of people who have no idea we’re here.”
“We thought, ‘The work’s done. After 10 years in London, it’s all going to be done,’” said Joffe.
Kawakubo’s philosophy and business strategy has always put profit second to creativity, although Joffe said the sales are satisfactory, with fall up 15 percent over spring. “It’s not going to take five years [to be profitable] like it did in London,” he said.
Speaking of London and New Beginnings, the whole process is set to start again. The original Dover Street store is moving to the historic, original Burberry building, a space triple its current size, on Haymarket. Joffe said the area is being redeveloped and the real estate opportunity was one he couldn’t refuse. The lease is signed. “Dover Street is moving out of Dover Street,” said Joffe, noting that offers for Dover Street Market have been coming in from Miami, Los Angeles, Singapore, Dubai and Qatar. Joffe takes the meetings; he’s traveled to Miami three times. But don’t those locations seem off-brand for DSM? “I don’t see it,” he said of Los Angeles. “I see Miami even less.” For now, London is enough of a project, one that will be completed this year. As for the other global expansion, Joffe said, “When you start to lose control, you get weak.”