It’s funny to think that Dover Street Market, the multi-brand retail brainchild of Comme des Garçons’ Rei Kawakubo and Adrian Joffe, can’t be found on Dover Street anymore. In fact, though the London flagship moved to Haymarket in 2016, the inexorable pair have continued to roll out new iterations all across the globe: spaces in New York, Tokyo, Beijing, and Singapore that echo the original temple of avant-garde fashion with subtle nods to their local environs. The latest has landed in Los Angeles’s Arts District and proves a timely addition to the booming downtown scene with its unexpected symbiosis of high luxury, avant-garde fashion, and a genuine connection to the streetwear scene.
Designed by Rei Kawakubo for an arching oval floorplan of over 15,000 square feet, the ambitious Imperial Street emporium extends, like the year-old Singapore boutique, across a single story, recalibrating the vertical labyrinth present in all other DSM locations into a horizontal one. “Because of the funny shape, and it being two different buildings that connect, you have more of a sense of discovery than in Singapore,” Joffe tells AD PRO. “It’s more Dover Street, in a way. And with the natural light through skylights and the bright white tiles, it feels very Californian to me. Rei wanted it to be filled with light.” And good vibes too, so it would seem, after watching actress Rose Kennedy Schlossberg’s tongue-in-cheek teaser video that showed the empty building being “cleansed” prior to install by a series of local healers who practiced space-clearing, crystal gridding, and a sonic bath to ready it for Rei’s transformation.
From the diagonal street-level entrance to the Rose Bakery restaurant’s outdoor terrace, a clinical patchwork of local materials creates a bricolage effect where optic white tiling, corrugated stainless steel, curved aluminum partitions, plywood, and gypsum walls separate dedicated ready-to-wear and accessories offerings from brands as diverse as Nike Lab, Gucci, Palace skateboards, and Sacai. “Nothing about going there feels like the Arts District, and once inside you kind of forget you’re in L.A.,” says Zoe Latta, whose bicoastal label Eckhaus Latta is one of the few local names sold within. “It is unassuming in its façade, and feels dreamlike upon entering.”
Aside from the general shopping floors, most of DSMLA’s spaces include architectural and artistic interventions by the fashion designers themselves. Take German designer Melitta Baumeister, for one, who has installed a mannequin cast from her own body alongside a 2D Doberman (her season’s spirit animal), or Simone Rocha, whose space is framed by transparent photographic decals of Lancaster House—a stately home that often hosts her London runway shows. “We chose very thin white acrylic sheets that give the impression of leaning effortlessly against the supporting structure,” says Baumeister, of her adaptable install that will change each season. “I chose the glossy acrylic sheets because of the pureness and the subtle reflections, as well as its flexibility.”
Though the general install bears a certain sense of anonymity, a striking portrait of Cindy Sherman is a camp departure: The work Untitled 465 (2008) hangs above the jewelry space, her string of pearls and gumball-size cocktail earring a cheeky nod to the pieces contained within a strict grid of fine jewelry cabinets. Designs by the likes of Repossi, Sophie Bille Brahe, Prounis, and Charlotte Chesnais glint under the glass. “Perhaps it’s a reminder of what jewelry used to stand for,” says jeweler Gaia Repossi, in town for Friday’s opening. “Now it’s an avant-garde medium, at least for me, and for what Repossi embodies. And as modern as she is, Cindy knows what good jewelry is! Here, her work feels like a tribute to old Hollywood.” The photograph, Joffe explains, was a last-minute addition. “Rei felt that there was something missing on that wall. We’ve worked with Cindy for something like 25 years now, and she’s always had a soft spot for Rei, so two days before the opening I wrote to her on the off chance we might be able to have that photo, and she wrote back immediately saying yes!”
Kawakubo’s witty opulence extends to the ceilings too, where seven spectacular “chandeliers” hang above the mixed designer floors, areas Joffe describes as the “luxury space, creative space, and natural space,” referring to the types of fashion design contained within each. “Rei said, ‘I need something spectacular in the general spaces. We need chandeliers!’” And chandeliers she got. Both new commissions and existing pieces put an emphasis on upcycled elements, and the fragmented suspensions dotted around the boutique range from Stuart Haygarth’s softly marquise-shape Dark Matter piece made from plastics foraged on the British coastline, to Sonoma-based artist Lyn Dillin’s work Chjellydelier. Her jellyfish-like column of fabulous detritus hangs by the Chanel jewelry corner and comprises, in Dillin’s eloquent words, “roadkill objects like twisted pairs of glasses, broken compasses, cracked pencils . . . and a hundred other things that have been used, tossed aside, and lost and found again.” If it all sounds like chaos, well, that was the plan, with Kawakubo bestowing the theme of “Beautiful Chaos” on the Dover Street Market project—a rule of thumb that her global family of collaborators is left to interpret as they please. The resulting whirlpool of creative adjacencies seems proof that, in the world of fashion’s avant-garde high priestess, there’s no digital rabbit hole quite like the real world. Just yet.
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