PARIS — Rei Kawakubo is about to make more retail waves.
Hot on the heels of her new Comme des Garçons guerrilla stores — the latest of which is slated to bow Friday in Barcelona — the fashion maverick is sweeping into central London this fall with a six-story venture mixing office space with assorted fashion and other retail ventures.
Kawakubo won’t disclose the identity of her subtenants until she completes agreements in the coming weeks. But what she’s calling “The Dover Street Market” promises to unite famous names and emerging talents from the worlds of fashion, design and beyond.
“I want to create a kind of market where various people from all walks of life gather and encounter each other in an ongoing atmosphere of strong and beautiful chaos,” the designer said in a statement.
Kawakubo will head the creative direction of the 13,000-square-foot operation, in consultation with Comme des Garçons staff and what she’s calling a “think tank committee.” Comme des Garçons owns the lease, with other participants operating concessions or penning joint-venture agreements with the Japanese designer firm.
Adrian Joffe, Comme des Garçons’ managing director in Paris, likened the concept to the Kensington Market of yore. He gave few specifics, but said about two-thirds of the space would be devoted to retail, with six to eight anchor tenants, and up to 20 other enterprises, some with small “stalls.”
The retail portion would include several of Comme des Garçons’ 10 collections showcased throughout the complex, but merchandise won’t be limited to fashion and could include furniture, flowers, food and perhaps even services like hairstyling, Joffe said.
“It’s not a department store, and it’s not a concept store,” he stressed. “We want to maintain an ongoing atmosphere of creative tension.”
Office tenants would be in the vein of graphic designers and artistic consultants, “not fund managers,” Joffe noted.
The building, next door to Browns Hotel, is currently being gutted to make way for Kawakubo’s retail variety show, but without any extraordinary architectural statement, Joffe emphasized. “It’s not about interior design. That’s why we can open in two months.”The Comme des Garçons boutique on Brook Street in London, a franchise unit operated since 1987 by Joan Burstein of Browns, is slated to go dark in July to make way for the Dover Street project.
“We’ve been very happy working with Browns, and [Burstein] will always remain the diva of Comme des Garçons in London,” Joffe said, noting that Browns will continue to carry one or two of its lines in its main store on South Molton Street.
Kawakubo’s plan for London exemplifies the designer’s recent penchant for creative collaborations and unorthodox retail ventures.
Over the past year, the designer has collaborated with designers including Azzedine Alaïa, Vivienne Westwood, Fred Perry and Peggy Moffitt, the keeper of Rudi Gernreich’s fashion legacy.
Last month in Berlin, Kawakubo opened the first of her so-called guerrilla stores, which exist for one year only in frontier neighborhoods and sell an eclectic mix of new and out-of-season Comme des Garçons lines. A network of as many as 20 guerrilla units is planned. Forthcoming locations include Beirut, Lebanon; Ljubljana, Slovenia; Singapore, and Prague.
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