In the past, small, unique boutiques have been known to create intrigue by offering what stale department stores were unable to: a distinct and sometimes daring experience. But lately, it seems, something else entirely has been upstaging both boutiques and department stores alike, quite dramatically overtaking the retail world of fashion and design. Intriguing enough?
As the meaning of ‘staging’ has gradually evolved to the idea of ‘curating’ in the fashion world, traditional boutiques have begun to wane in their ability to pique curiosity. When 10 Corso Como, Milan first came on the scene in 1991, soon followed by Colette in Paris, the world of fashion retail underwent a sea change. Both retailers managed to eliminate the need for separate departments and instead focused on ‘cross-selling’ and customizing their store collections towards a lifestyle. Corso Como turned heads by including not only a gallery, bookshop and café, but also a hotel. By doing so, they introduced a new platform of retail called a ‘concept store’, the model of which has since been replicated around the globe quite endlessly.
Fast forward to London, 2004. Aspiring to elevate the concept store model to even greater heights, the avant-garde fashion brand Comme des Garçons opened its first multi-level retail wonderland, the Dover Street Market (DSM). The DSM, unlike its predecessors, began selling something much more valuable than a ‘lifestyle’. They began selling a piece of culture itself.
Comme des Garçons’ idea was to create a fashion ‘commune’ of sorts – to cross-pollinate and cohabit with other like-minded groundbreaking designers and micro-brands, all within their own aesthetically disheveled and artistically fitted retail spaces. Alongside their own collections, Comme des Garçons started to generously give space to other emerging designers and brands. By not concentrating on their own collections as one might expect, Comme des Garçons began to construct a sense of fashion democracy by hand picking other brands’ collections and creating a true ‘collective’.
A flagship store in Tokyo soon followed in 2006 and in 2013, the long-awaited New York outpost opened where Comme des Garçons began not only to create a cultural platform for its fashion collective, but to cross-pollinate and share its retail spaces with groundbreaking artists as well. Demonstrating a true commitment to their avant-garde philosophy, Comme des Garçons’ creative manifesto has been to remain “artistically, culturally and socially fluid”. Instead of a competition, Comme des Garçons has managed to build a real sense of collaboration and coexistence that has set the participating brands and artists flawlessly apart, yet magically together.
Yes, you can call us fans.
While this post has not been about an art fusion collaboration in the truest sense of the words, we have so much admiration for the way Comme des Garçons infuses their brand with art and artists on an everyday basis, we felt compelled to give them the spotlight.
Stay tuned for our next post.