In December of 2013, Rei Kawaukobo opened up the New York branch of the London-born fashion mecca that is Dover Street Market. As with any new retail venture, it took some time to work out the kinks and figure out what was working and what wasn’t. And it was with that knowledge that the store prepped its most recent “New Beginning,” a biannual event where the store is closed for several days while it gets a total overhaul — and we’re told the latest one was the biggest yet. Floors were reconfigured, designers came in to redesign their own dedicated spaces, and new merchandise and designers were displayed and stocked. The cost? About $120,000 in missed sales, CEO Adrian Joffe told WWD.
For those who haven’t been, Dover Street Market is like an avant-garde wonderland of creatively conceived shop-in-shops, some more permanent than others, that allow the brands carried to stand out and convey their brand message or seasonal inspiration more clearly than they would on a homogenous-looking rack at a typical department store or boutique. Of course, big brands can do this by purchasing shop-in-shops at said department stores (or at DSM) -- but DSM also gives out the space for free to its lesser-known designers, of which the retailer always carries a moderate but strong assortment, some of whom are fresh out of design school. For them, getting stocked by DSM is a major opportunity to cross paths with just about everyone in the industry while hanging alongside the likes of Comme des Garcons, Prada and Azzedine Alaia. What’s more, Dover Street Market acts as more than just an account for these brands — it also acts as a showroom for stylists, and its press team frequently integrates them into its own promotional campaigns — meaning the store can act as a springboard for a new brand.
At the press preview for DSM’s latest “New Beginning” last week, we had the opportunity to get up close and personal with some of the designers the retailer has signed on for spring 2015 and there’s no doubting that they are ones to watch. From a girl who graduated from Parsons, like, yesterday, to a Japanese designer who cut his teeth working for Kawakubo at Comme des Garcons, read on for six brands making up the new guard of talent anointed by Dover Street Market, some of whom we were able to chat with.
Andrea Jiaipei Li
A contestant at this year's H&M Design Award, the 24-year-old womenswear designer only graduated from the Parsons MFA program last year. She uses innovative fabrics to create exaggerated silhouettes that have a fun, youthful feel. She has her own installation at DSM New York's fourth floor, and is showing during VFiles Made Fashion Week next month.
German-born, New York-based Baumeister showed her debut collection with VFiles Made Fashion Week last year, where she says DSM first took notice. Or perhaps they saw Rihanna wearing one of her jackets to Paris Fashion Week last spring. Like Li, Baumeister is a recent Parsons MFA graduate, and she has her own installation on the New York store's seventh floor. "Dover Street Market understands the brand really well and of course it is a pleasure that I was able to sell the very first season at the DSM in New York, London and Ginza, next to Comme des Garçons and very established brands and the coolest new lines," Baumeister tells Fashionista. "The store is not afraid of shape or pieces that go beyond the T-shirt, and it is a retail store that really highlights each brand individually." For the time being, Baumeister says she's "focusing on being represented by a showroom in Paris," and does not plan to show for fall 2015.
Noir Kei Ninomiya
While studying at The Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, Ninomiya decided to visit Japan and wound up becoming a pattern-maker for Comme des Garcons, never returning to school. "It was an opportunity that I could not refuse," he tells Fashionista. "When I was offered my own collection [by Rei Kawakubo], I had very much the same feeling." Ninomiya's entire collection is black, hence the name. "The collection uses black as a means to create new silhouettes, forms and modes for expression," he says. "I think black is the color with the strongest image."
Launched by Luke Meier, a former Supreme designer, and Arnaud Faeh, OAMC (which stands for Over All Master Cloth) is the latest fashion-minded streetwear brand. The line is designed and produced between Paris and Milan and sold in stores like Colette and 10 Corso Como, in addition to DSM, where it now has its own installation on the second floor of the New York store.
London-based Craig Green, 28, has become a darling in the menswear space. His spring 2015 collection, shown in London over the summer, famously made attendees cry, partly because of his relationship with the late Louise Wilson at Central Saint Martin's. He tells Fashionista that collection has "helped our business grow and develop," though DSM was one of the first ever stores to stock the line. "They have supported us in all ways and have allowed us to grow and develop as a brand." We're told his collection has been one of the retailer's best sellers, and that it will be stocking his fall 2015 collection.
Moscow-based Rubchinskiy does youth culture-inspired men's sportswear that looks a bit like Carhartt for a more elevated, avant-garde consumer. He's part of the "DSM Showroom," which also houses labels like Meadham Kirchoff, Craig Green and Hood by Air.