NEW YORK — Out with the old, in with the new — or, if you’re among Rei Kawakubo’s tribe, the official term for that is “New Beginning.”
Dover Street Market New York, which opened on Lexington Avenue just before Christmas, went through its first biannual changeover, which it unveiled to the public over the weekend. And while this ultimately meant stocking the space with new-season merch, there was much more to this than meets the eye.
The store was closed to the public last Thursday and Friday. During that time, several new spaces were set up, most notably Loewe and its prelaunch capsule collection by Jonathan Anderson; a special area devoted to Riccardo Tisci’s collaboration with Nike, and cool installations of emerging designers, among them Melitta Baumeister and Hood by Air. Existing shops, meanwhile, were given a makeover to correspond to current collections, including Prada, which replaced spring’s artistic faces with a brutalist architecture landscape backdrop for fall. Designers like Julien David were also added to the offering.
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“Rei’s been doing since the beginning,” said Adrian Joffe, the chief executive officer of Comme des Garçons, who is also Kawakubo’s husband and voice to the public, of the changeover. “It’s really about the season ending and the season starting. The company’s fundamental value is doing things that are new. For her, and her eyes, mixing new things with old things takes away the power of the new.”
More specifically, he noted, “If you’re not doing it, like cleaning it all out and bringing it all in, it takes away the strength, the power of what she is trying to do. She said she knows it’s not commercial. She knows you have to carry on selling a bit of the old stuff and clear the last season’s things through. For her, it’s visually painful for the eye and it takes away the power of the new. Basically ‘New Beginning’ is about that.”
The practice has been a key element in Kawakubo’s retail vision for Dover Street Market and Comme des Garçons.
“She told me that all the collections of Comme des Garçons are always based around a theme, a concept, a story that is being told,” Joffe said. “You detract from that story if you’re mixing it with the old season, so it’s very uncommercial but for us, as a company, that’s always been a secondary criteria. Of course we want to sell and make money, or else we wouldn’t be here after 45 years, but we think that by doing it this way, it keeps our image strong and in the long term, that’s how we survive.”
Among the cool new products, Kktp sneakers and Sacai Vans, for example. Baumeister, a German native and recent Parsons graduate, gets major play on the DSM showroom floor for emerging talent, her cast silicone garments on display alongside the mouldings she used to create them, piled on the floor as if crashed through the ceiling. Other designers on that floor include Proper Gang, Lee Roach and Gosha Rubchinskiy.
Early on Monday morning, Jonathan Anderson stopped by to give the Loewe space a final polish, though he declined to speak to press.
For DSMNY, which has been open for eight months, the public interest in the changeover (which, in the past, the company internally referred to as “Tachiagari”) reinforces the pioneering nature of the retail concept, which has struck a nerve with New Yorkers.
“It was a tough beginning because of the weather,” Joffe noted. “December started unbelievably well. We were double the budget that we thought we would do. Then, all the snowstorms started happening in January, February and March and it was a little tough. There were days we had to close, because the salt that was put on the pavement also melted the electric wires and we had no electricity for a few days. There were a lot of issues beyond our control, but since April, it’s been building up, bigger and better. May was our best month. We did the budgets in May.” The company did $2.2 million with a sale in June, which is over budget. “We are optimistic for the future,” he said.
Which begs the question, what’s in store for the next “New Beginning”? Even more change. “We are always thinking about what to do next,” Joffe said. “Going forward, we want to get on the rhythm of constant changes, because that is what beautiful chaos is about. You can’t have static chaos.”