Dover Street Market is more than just a concept-store, it is a space for artistic eclecticism. What sets Dover Street Market apart from most department stores is the unrestrained creativity it harbors. Art installations are displayed alongside designer clothing making it seem more like an art gallery than a boutique. The store is described by its owner, Rei Kawakubo – the designer behind Comme des Garçons – as an “ongoing atmosphere of beautiful chaos,” and this impression becomes clear as soon as you step into the store.
Previously the Komatsu Department Store from 1946, this revamped six-story building is a blank canvas for creatives to exhibit their work. Without the clothing racks and the artworks, the building would only be comprised of empty white rooms. All of the artists displaying their work inside Dover Street Market were picked by Kawakubo herself.
Among the installations are “Pulse” by Kyoto-based Kohei Nawa, a set of twisting white pillars near the escalators; “Bear Cave” by French studio Coudamy Design, a wooden tree-like structure on the second floor that unfurls to the ceiling; sculptures of giant wasps by set designer Michael Howells that are scattered throughout the building; an elephant plaster sculpture by British artist Stephanie Quayle; self-portraits by American photographer Cindy Sherman; and a giant plastic rose by British artist Andy Hillman.
You’d be surprised by how simple the layout of each floor actually is. The building has no special architectural highlight whatsoever, it’s special entirely because of the art that it features and its selection of clothing.
I want to create a kind of market where various creators from various fields gather together and encounter each other in an ongoing atmosphere of beautiful chaos: the mixing up and coming together of different kindred souls who all share a strong personal vision.- Rei Kawakubo
The featured designers were also curated by Kawakubo. A mix of avant-garde, street, classic, and obscure, it feels different from most department stores who curate their designers based on their target markets. The gothic clothes of Rick Owens, the minimalist collections of Phoebe Philo’s Céline, the timeless jewelry of Tiffany and Co., and the idiosyncratic pieces of John Galliano’s Martin Margiela are all sold under a single roof. Dover Street Market also carries all the labels under the Comme des Garçons company, such as Comme des Garçons, Tricot, Ganryu, Junya Watanabe, and Noir Kei Ninomiya. Most designers that Dover Street Market carry are very unconventional, which isn’t surprising since Kawakubo herself is a celebrated non-conformist. Some labels sold here can’t be found in other department stores, making it a paradise for those who love exploring new designers.
Dover Street Market Ginza isn’t located along the main highway, but on a street parallel to it, behind the big Uniqlo store (there’s a bridge connecting the two buildings). Other Dover Street Market locations include London, New York, Beijing, and a new one that will open soon in Singapore. Every store’s design is unique which makes all of them worth going to. The New York branch is located along Lexington Avenue in Manhattan and has a different look altogether. I personally prefer it over the Ginza branch since it’s bigger and the installations are wilder, although that’s not to say that the Ginza branch is boring. If you’re not interested in shopping, window shopping, or looking at art, both branches also have cool cafés to hang out in.
Ginza is beautiful but the presence of many luxury stores can sometimes make it seem flat. Dover Street Market is certainly the most unique store around the area with its playful, artistic vibe. Like Kawakubo herself, Dover Street Market is an outlier amongst the typical fashion stores in the neighborhood, and that’s exactly why this store is undoubtedly the coolest boutique in Ginza.