PARIS — Rei Kawakubo — who broke the retail mold in 2004 when she opened Dover Street Market in London — is taking the next generation of her multibrand concept to Asia.
I.T. Beijing Market, a 19,000-square-foot emporium blending various Comme des Garçons lines with other designer brands, is slated to open Dec. 29 in the Sanlitun retail development.
Operated by I.T. Group, Comme’s franchise partner for Hong Kong and greater China, the four-story unit will showcase a product mix that’s roughly half Comme des Garçons along with labels found in Dover Street Market — like Azzedine Alaïa and Yves Saint Laurent — and those in I.T.’s stable, such as Ann Demeulemeester and A Bathing Ape.
Coming at the end of next year will be a seven-story, 32,000-square-foot emporium in Tokyo. To be dubbed Ginza Komatsu Market, it will be operated in partnership with department store operator Komatsu in a building whose facade will bear Kawakubo’s iconoclastic design imprint. The product mix will be half Comme des Garçons brands, the rest invited and curated by Kawakubo in collaboration with Komatsu.
“They will not be carbon copies, but completely new versions of the London original,” Kawakubo said of the Beijing and Tokyo projects, which are to echo Dover Street’s intentionally chaotic market ambiance.
She explained these forthcoming stores, based on “new kinds of partnerships and co-operations,” coalesce to “create ever new experiences of retail.”
Adrian Joffe, Kawakubo’s husband and chief executive officer of Comme des Garçons International, stressed the new units will be a “modern” iteration of Dover Street, with new furnishings, decor and unique product mixes.
The retail expansion comes as the Comme des Garçons business in Asia is “booming,” according to Joffe, who also disclosed plans to open, on Jan. 30, the brand’s first unit in Singapore, a 4,000-square-foot flagship in the Hilton hotel devoted to Kawakubo’s various lines. Its franchise partner in that venture is Club 21.
Comme des Garçons also works with Samsung in Korea, and last August opened a six-level flagship in Seoul that incorporates space for art exhibitions.
Joffe also detailed plans to open an additional unit in Tokyo: a 4,500-square-foot Comme des Garçons flagship in the Marunouchi business district. Slated to bow on Jan. 28, the store will include an outlet of Rose Bakery, a Paris-based eatery co-founded by Joffe’s sister that Comme des Garçons is now exporting to Japan through an agreement with Royal Kirin Holdings. The top floor of the Ginza Komatsu project is to showcase a 2,000-square-foot Rose location.
“This year has been a good year because of Asia,” Joffe said, citing a 57 percent jump in turnover in Comme’s principal Asian markets in the first nine months of this year.
Japan still generates about 70 percent of Comme des Garçons’ revenues, but Asia is on track to reach 15 percent of the total, up from less than 10 percent three years ago, he noted. Europe and the U.S. each represent about 7 to 8 percent of sales.