Phoebe English is playing a big part in Dover Street Market New York’s new beginning.
English, whose collection is sold at all three DSMs, was invited by Rei Kawakubo, Comme des Garçons’ designer and the architect of DSM, to reimagine the ground-floor event space of the Lexington Avenue store, marking the first time the store has been altered since opening in December.
English’s installation explores the weighty themes of chaos and control, gravity and temporality. “The main idea was to bring a very dramatic outside scene inside,” English said, sipping tea at DSM’s Rose Bakery. There’s a white collapsed cliff that’s smashed and broken. Clear acrylic rails hover within tall trapezelike frames suspended by knotted cords. Intricate, handmade textiles hang within the scene. English, who collaborated with art director Philip Cooper, said creating the work was similar to designing a collection. “Usually, when I design a collection, it’s about how the materials communicate with one another,” she said. “My parents are both artists. Growing up, I realized that’s what art is — communicating with materials.” RELATED STORY: A New Story at Dover Street Market N.Y. >>
This is English’s second installation for DSM. In May 2013, she constructed a glass globe from 30,000 blue glass bugle beads for the London store’s main window. The beads were hand-stitched to look like they were shedding and dropping. “It was a really incredible opportunity,” English said. “We were a young company and it was the biggest thing that ever happened to us. DSM was our first customer.”
In 2011, English grabbed headlines with her Central Saint Martins graduate collection, which was made from hair. She said her signatures are constructed textiles and the conceptual use of materials. English’s designs incorporate mattress ticking, rubber, muslin and layered tulle, and she’s made pieces from knotted hosiery material.
“I remember the very first time I saw something from Phoebe’s first collection two years ago,” said Adrian Joffe, president of Comme des Garçons International. DSM is owned and operated by CDG. “I knew here was something so special. It was a jacket that told a story.…It was so strong and creative and she hasn’t let up since. Phoebe has a vision and a purpose and we are so proud to have her with us.”
English, whose fall collection will be in 11 stores, said, “The last three years has been like doing another degree. I feel like I’m a completely different person than the pure designer I was. I have to learn how commerce works, production, working with factories. It’s been a somewhat difficult learning process.”
English is launching a second collection, called Core. “I’m trying to expand the high-end luxury story and reach this other type of store,” she said. “I’m targeting smaller boutiques and Selfridges. The new collection is our version of a pre-collection. It’s an archive line where we bring back pieces we were very fond of.”
In terms of growing, “investors have crossed my path, but we’re quite cautious,” she said. “It’s something that will eventually happen.”
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