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A Look At Dover Street Market Singapore

By Guan Tan

The architectural centrepiece of Dover Street Market Singapore, a giant hut complex designed by Rei Kawakubo.
 
Gregory Woo
The architectural centrepiece of Dover Street Market Singapore, a giant hut complex designed by Rei Kawakubo.

News of a Dover Street Market Singapore started brewing in late 2015. It was rumoured to open in March this year but was perhaps delayed by Comme des Garçons' major retrospective in New York's Metropolitan museum. In May, Rei Kawakubo and Adrian Joffe, founder and president of Comme des Garçons and Dover Street Market respectively, were reportedly spotted in Singapore. Their visit cemented the sparse speculations about the opening.

It's easy to park Dover Street Market under its parent fashion label, Comme des Garçons. Yet according to Adrian Joffe, it's not merely a retail offshoot of the fashion label. "It's completely independent, with its own specific DNA, while at the same time adhering to the core values of CDG – of creation and always something new."

The 'DNA' of Dover Street Market was something that Rei Kawakubo famously explained back in September 2004, when the original Dover Street Market debuted in London. She summed the entire concept up in two words, "Beautiful Chaos". Later, she explained herself further, "For Dover Street Market I think about making a new food, as a shop. I cook together various kinds of materials – such as clothes. Comme des Garçons would become the main ingredient." 

With her latest launch, Kawakubo reiterated the identity of Dover Street Market in a release saying, "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."

Dover Street Market SingaporeAdrian Joffe and Rei Kawakubo, president and founder of Comme des Garcons and Dover Street Market respectively.
Adrian Joffe and Rei Kawakubo, president and founder of Comme des Garcons and Dover Street Market respectively.

Kawakubo has been known to have personally designed all of the Dover Street Market stores – Singapore included. With her design process, history and locality of the premises play a massive role. 

Thirteen years ago, Dover Street Market opened doors to London's Dover Street in the Mayfair district. The building was previously home to the Institute of Contemporary Arts. In 2012, Dover Street Market launched in Tokyo's Ginza district. The building used to house a traditional Japanese departmental store. It made sense for Dover Street Market to continue the retail dialogue. A year later, its New York store opened along Lexington Avenue. It was again a building with history – previously a design school for women. 

Here in Singapore, Kawakubo and Joffe decided on a one-storey space in the heart of Dempsey Hill. "DSM Singapore will inevitably be completely different because the building (on one floor only) and environment (in a park) are different," Joffe adds. 

The address, 18 Dempsey Road was auctioned by the Singapore Land Authority in 2015, in a bid to inject life to the petering lifestyle enclave. The area dates back to the 1840s when a nutmeg plantation sat on the land. Later in 1860, the government acquired the space. Military barracks and headquarters occupied the grounds for the next century. 

Dover Street Market SingaporeInteriors of the refurbished military barracks prior to installation.
Interiors of the refurbished military barracks prior to installation.
Gregory WooFrom left: A rack of Vans x Anti Social Social Club sneakers; a rack of Céline apparel.
From left: A rack of Vans x Anti Social Social Club sneakers; a rack of Céline apparel.
Gregory WooFrom left: Balenciaga and milliner Stephen Jones' installations.
From left: Balenciaga and milliner Stephen Jones' installations.

"There is always a major architectural feature in each of the DSMs – the central heritage staircase in DSM [London], the escalators piercing the building in DSM [Ginza], the fast elevator in DSM [New York]." In the Singapore instalment, Kawakubo has designed a "central giant hut complex and giant arches which pervade the entire space" in synchrony with the height of the interior space. He also notes that this marks "the highest ceiling ever seen in any DSM or CDG store". 

Joffe stressed that a copy and paste retail model does not work for Dover Street Market. "Each time it is different. Each time we do something new, while always keeping the same sense of values. This is how it has been for 47 years of Comme des Garçons and how it has been for 13 years of Dover Street Market," Joffe adds. "We will work in harmony with the context, while on a concrete level, work with local designers and have a specific curation."

Dover Street Market SingaporeExterior of the refurbished military barracks prior to installation.
Exterior of the refurbished military barracks prior to installation.
Tung PhamThe new Dover Street Market Singapore. The Dempsey Hill district was formerly known as Tanglin Barracks.
The new Dover Street Market Singapore. The Dempsey Hill district was formerly known as Tanglin Barracks.

The opening will inject new fashion brands to Singapore, perhaps bringing the local consumer landscape up to date with some of Europe's most exciting newcomers. Amongst the arsenal are some burgeoning designers who are gripping the fashion industry at large. 

Cecilie Banhsen

Dover Street Market SingaporeDanish designer Cecile Bahnsen's Fall 2017 collection.
Danish designer Cecile Bahnsen's Fall 2017 collection.

Danish womenswear designer Cecilie Bahnsen founded her eponymous brand in 2015. Prior to that, she graduated from the Royal College of Art's MA programme, and apprenticed at John Galliano. Till date, she's presented five collection. Her most recent Fall 2017 instalment was dubbed "the most exciting show at Copenhagen Fashion Week", and was nominated for the illustrious LVMH Prize this year. Bahnsen's collections are now stocked at Tokyo's Beams, Isetan, Restir, Los Angeles' H. Lorenzo, and all Dover Street Market stores. 

Kiko Kostadinov

Dover Street Market SingaporeLondon-based Kiko Kostadinov's Spring 2018 menswear collection.
London-based Kiko Kostadinov's Spring 2018 menswear collection.

Bulgaria-born menswear designer Kiko Kostadinov is based in London. Prior to his graduation from the illustrious MA course at Central Saint Martins, he released a capsule collection of cut-and-sewn clothing with Stussy in 2015. In his graduate collection, he had the models masked and clad in wearable clothes. The clothes looked unseeming, but Kostadinov revealed in an interview, "I spent many hours working on the cuts for this collection... There are seven different trousers cuts..." Apart from his own label, Kostadinov is now creative director of a new designer diffusion line to Scottish brand, Mackintosh 0001.

Marine Serre

Marine SerreMarine Serre's graduate collection, 'A Radical Call For Love' was awarded the LVMH Prize earlier this year. The collection will be on sale in stores this fall.
Marine Serre's graduate collection, 'A Radical Call For Love' was awarded the LVMH Prize earlier this year. The collection will be on sale in stores this fall.

25-year-old Marine Serre was trained in fashion design for seven years, apprenticed at Dior, Alexander McQueen, and Balenciaga. Serre's graduate collection, 'A Radical Call For Love' was nominated for this year's LVMH Prize. Her pieces borrow from the exacting techniques of vintage clothing, and are all produced in an atelier in Belgium. The award-winning collection will be available in stores this fall.

Other notable names include London-based womenswear designer Katie Roberts-Wood and menswear designer Grace Wales Bonner, who bagged 2016's LVMH Prize. 

Exclusive DSM Collaborations

Dover Street Market SingaporeStussy, Nike archives, and Gucci exclusives amongst others.
Stussy, Nike archives, and Gucci exclusives amongst others.

The launch will see exclusive DSM collaboration merchandise available in Singapore as well. Brands and items include Gosha Rubchinskiy T-Shirts, Gucci exclusive jackets and T-Shirts, Nike running archives T-shirts, Stussy, Vans in partnership with Anti Social Social Club, Converse sneakers, South-Korean singer-songwriter G-Dragon's fashion label Peaceminusone, and a Balenciaga sneaker exclusive launching late this year. 

Dover Street Market Singapore is located at 18 Dempsey Road, from 11 am to 8 pm, or available online here