Much has been written about it since it opened in late December of 2013, but I would like to mention Dover Street Market/ New York in context of disruption, a retail strategy I wrote about back in October of 2013, as Comme des Garçons, the driving force behind this innovative retail experiment, has once again proven to be the master of this discipline. Established as the third and american brother of its original in London we have to ignore the decadence that comes with Favella resembling environments, which sell goods at highest price points for their emotional values as a result of the endorsement of this place and the brands it carries. Instead I would like to draw focus on the creative aspects of the environment, which so refreshingly surprise and disrupt even the savviest retail expert on their discovery through this fashion temple.
Maybe I need to mention the choice of location as the first surprise, a corner in New York’s mid-town, that has absolutely no comparable retail in its immediate vicinity and is more characterized by uninspiring neighborhood restaurants and faceless apartment buildings and would in everyone mind be a financial suicide for such an undertaking. This is where brand confidence crossed with brilliant marketing comes into play, a long-held tradition for Comme des Garçons , where ever they go. ( I do remind of the “Orange Door” in a back alley of Tokyo’s Aoyama district that in absence of a logo lead into a 2 story world of high-end fashion for the ones “in the know” or the store on West 22nd Street in New York’s gallery district in the early 2000s, hidden behind the facade of a car repair shop). And for all those who never dare – it always paid off.
Not intimidated by the relatively small footprint a genius strike is the glass elevator that was brutalistically implanted in the center of each of the 7 floor plates to allow the customer a preview of the entire store offering in one ride to the top, regardless of the fact that it disrupts traffic, views and merchandising on most levels. It is the prime stimulus to the carefully choreographed creative chaos that is dispersed over 7 floors in a souk style fashion.
With displaying multiple brands comes the coexistence problem of multiple identities in one field. To which the creators of this stimulating environment answered by masking the individual brands with crafty expressions of carefully curated fixture (systems) and original to bizarrely defaced furniture pieces to mini stage sets. If the product does not make you stop then the (art) installations displaying it may have a better chance. Or maybe the freestanding dressing rooms objects will make you want to explore? Whether it resembles high craft or random assemblies, this world of creativity is outfitted with surprises that disrupt one’s expectation at every angle, turning the retail journey into a highly entertaining and inspiring adventure.
It may not convince on all levels of execution but it certainly gains high appreciation on the conceptual end showing once again that Rei Kawakubo and her team are way ahead of their time having created an environment again that is unique and unparalleled yet.
regis pean + omni//form is a strategic architecture and design firm creating experience based design around the world