January 15, 2008
London shopping: Dover Street Market
It’s easy to feel intimidated walking into Dover Street Market, arguably London’s number one cutting-edge shopping destination. When I first arrived in London last year, I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but gathered it was something along the lines of Colette in Paris. So far, so (very) good.
But with "market" in the title, I was initially thinking on a linear level, as opposed to an uber-department store with six floors dedicated to fashion, design and art. And with terms like "avant-garde", "groundbreaking" and "edgy" bandied about in the press over the past three years, I was half-excited and half-scared, fearing six floors of pretension and a f***-off attitude to boot.*
Emerging from the lift onto the fourth floor, I was immediately struck by a few things. Firstly, a vintage anatomy plaster model of a foetus in utero, the kind of thing you’d find in a university science lab from the fifties; secondly, my beloved Labour and Wait’s counter of traditional homewares (think balls of twine, sturdy gardening tools and French stripey tops); and finally, a rack of Commes des Garcon’s PLAY line, mixed in with designers such as Commuun, Toga Archives, and Veronique Branquinho. All this and the comforting homely aroma of freshly baked scones pervading from the Rose Bakery in the corner of the room (more on this in another post). It’s kinda crazy and cool and I love it.
But let’s turn down the “crazy” dial for the moment, after all, there is serious fashion to consider. Dover Street Market is the brainchild of Commes des Garcon’s Rei Kawakubo, and it features well over 50 designers, with numerous exclusive collaborations and all 14 CdG lines.
Kawakubo challenges traditional concepts of merchandising by mixing top designers such as Dior, Galliano and Alaïa, with lesser-known labels sourced from all over the world. Menswear merges with womenswear, and unexpected suprises (like the voodoo-vibed World Archives stall and Emma Hawkins’ Victorian collection of taxidermy, animal skeletons and vintage plaster anatomy models) keep shoppers engaged and excited. And by inviting the various designers to curate and regularly update their own space, Kawakubo breathes new life into fashion retail.
Personal highlights include Very Lustre’s ultra-modern diamond jewellery; Boudicca’s velvet-draped birdcage dressing room, complete with mirror and bell; Parisien Didier Ludot’s ultimate LBD range, and Cameron Silver’s “Decades” stall (a little piece of Melrose in Mayfair, where I spied heart-stopping premium vintage pieces by Azzedine Alaïa, Missoni and YSL couture). I was also enamoured by Japanese label Sacai’s simple and relaxed knitwear, as well as Sacai Luck’s ultra-femme lingerie line featuring pretty camisoles and shorts in cashmere and silk.
On each visit to DSM, I've found it increasingly difficult to walk past the range of Pierre Hardy shoes without drooling all over the wares, and it was nice to see Australian designer Michelle Jank’s eclectic one-off neckpieces. And the one-off creations by London’s premier milliner Stephen Jones’ for DSM are always fun and fanciable (I loved the adorable A/W 2007 "Chic!" berets). I could go on and on … each stall is worthy of an individual post, so you can expect additional posts and updates on DSM in the future.
In the meantime, don’t miss Alber Elbaz for Lanvin’s shambolic installation on level three, featuring a collapsed mannequin, a chaise longe, scattered articles of clothing and shoes and a bottle of champagne (perhaps a day-five London Fashion Week survivor, non?). But it’s not there for much longer, as the store closes for its bi-annual "Tachiagari" on 24 January, where all the stock and installations are refreshed over a two-day period.
Another reason to hotfoot it to DSM before the 24 January deadline is the post-Christmas sale, where most stock is currently reduced by 40 per cent storewide. Look out for top designers such as Lanvin (in particular, the black cigarette pants and dresses), Marios Schwab (fab LBDs), Boudicca and Atelier One. Also, keep an eye out for CdG’s vinyl bags in black, white and red on the fourth floor, as well as the highly covetable patent leather shoppers in black, white and red. There’s also 30 per cent off Alaïa, 40 per cent off Cutler and Gross’ vintage glasses for DSM, and 50 per cent off Olivia Morris shoes.
*Mind you, I'm also the neurotic-shopper type who feels compelled to act in an overly demonstrative "hey-I'm-not-a-potential-shoplifter" manner around security guards in premium designer brand stores.
Dover Street Market
17-18 Dover St,
Tel: 020 7518 0680
Monday to Saturday 11am-6pm
Nearest tube: Green Park
Click here for a Wee Birdy map.
All images courtesy of Dover Street Market.