When Comme des Garçons held its once-every-three-years Super-Market-Market sale in a westside warehouse space last month, shoppers lined up by the hundreds (celebs included), street style photographers descended, there was even a DJ. With Comme des Garçons and labels stocked at the CDG-owned Dover Street Market—J.W.Anderson, Gosha Rubchinskiy, Craig Green—at 70 to 80 percent off, it was a can’t-miss event.
The general consensus is that it’s grim out there for retailers. Where so much else is going wrong, Comme des Garçons designer Rei Kawakubo and her husband, Adrian Joffe, the president of both CDG and DSM, are doing something right. Which is why I wanted to talk to Joffe about the fashion subject du jour: the future of runway shows. Comme des Garçons’s are famously exclusive and famously well-regarded. How does Joffe view the see-now-buy-now trend? Where does he stand on consumer-facing shows? Will we ever see a CDG show in virtual reality? Joffe answered my questions via email. Read on for his outspoken replies.
2016 is shaping up to be a year of fashion disruption. You’ve got major designer departures, some brands rethinking delivery schedules, others combining men’s and women’s collections. I’m interested in your perspective on the changes as the president of Dover Street Market and CDG.
Fashion, like life, is about constant change. Recently for sure there have been more changes than usual, but I am not sure we can say fashion is in crisis or that it matters. In a way we should welcome big changes and even revolutions because the status quo is never that interesting or positive. Disruption can perhaps pave the way for more creative thinking and less boring clothes.
Image: girls bridesmaid dresses
As for Comme des Garçons and Dover Street Market, we just get on with what we do and don’t really take into account or change according to trends. We are our own microcosm.
Knowing shoppers as well as you do after years of running DSM stores around the world, how excited are you about the idea of see-now-buy-now collections? Do you think direct-from-the-runway collections can help the flagging retail scene?
I’m not at all excited. It’s an unimaginative marketing idea that will, if anything, kill off retail even quicker. It smacks a bit of totalitarianism. I feel it takes away the freedom of the buyer and herds the consumer even more into what is supposed to be hot and enforces the idea that instantaneousness is the new paradise. Individuality and choice are reduced. Where is the suspense, the patience, the surprise, the happy accidents? Where is the art, where is the risk, and where is the space for creation to flourish in the see-now-buy-now mind-set?
Labels big (Gucci) and small (Vetements), both of which DSM stocks, have announced plans to combine their women’s and men’s collections. As a retailer, what do you see as the pros and cons, both big picture and on the ground, in terms of store buyers’ schedules? Also, has Team CDG given any thought to combining women’s and men’s collections?
Of course this will never happen for CDG. Men’s and ladies’ CDG have completely different starting points, although as with anything in CDG, they share the same values. But for Gucci and Vetements and anyone else to do [it] is, of course, no problem for us, and we wish them luck. Scheduling, of course, is always a bit of a nightmare but no big deal. We’ll get to see what we want to see.
In my interviews with others on the future of fashion shows, the subject tends to turn to retail. I’ve heard a lot of complaints about the a-seasonality of deliveries—i.e., Spring arrives in January, Fall collections in July. Why does this situation persist?
I am not sure, really, but I think it is something to do with large fabric manufacturers and the spiral of earlier and earlier bargain sales by depressed American department stores. It is very silly, though, to get Spring/Summer clothing just as winter is beginning to dig in its heels.
Last month, Business of Fashion had an editorial about broken department stores. What strategies have you used at DSM to avoid this fate?
We just do what we do, and don’t take notice or be affected by what is happening out there. We only aim to make an exciting and stimulating retail experience through beautiful chaos. I think also creating a community of relationships is what is important, between suppliers and us and between us and consumers. It is hard to have synergetic relationships online or with corporate machines.
Getting back to fashion shows, of all the changes being discussed and put into action this year, which do you think has a chance of sticking?
I have no idea. It’ll be interesting to see.