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PARIS — Retail maverick Rei Kawakubo is out to conquer another offbeat neighborhood in Manhattan with her latest international branch of Dover Street Market.
Comme des Garçons said Friday it has signed a lease for a 20,000-square-foot, seven-story emporium at 160 Lexington Ave. at 30th Street, in a district chockablock with nail parlors and Indian restaurants.
The sprawling unit — which mingles Comme’s various lines with a range of international designer brands for women and men — is due to open in December 2013, Adrian Joffe, chief executive officer at Comme des Garçons International, told WWD.
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The store will be located in an imposing classical-style building that was formerly home to the New York School of Applied Design for Women and, subsequently, Touro College. Built in 1909, the building has a colonnaded limestone facade and is located in a primarily residential area that is a short walk from Gramercy Park.
It is not the first time Kawakubo is stepping into uncharted territory in New York. She opened a boutique in SoHo in 1983, when it was still largely an industrial neighborhood, and was the first to spy the retail potential of Chelsea, where she moved the Comme des Garçons store in 1999.
Starting in the Eighties, Kawakubo revolutionized retail by featuring art in her stores and launching collaborations with brands ranging from Louis Vuitton to H&M.
She has innovated with temporary retail concepts, including scores of “guerrilla” stores selling Comme des Garçons collections from previous seasons in cities such as Berlin; Warsaw; Ljubljana, Slovenia; Stockholm, Helsinki, Barcelona and Singapore.
In 2001, she teamed with Milan retailer Carla Sozzani to open the 10 Corso Como Comme des Garçons in Tokyo. In 2004, she opened Dover Street Market in London, a multibrand store that also included a cafe and a smattering of vintage pieces. At that time, Dover Street was primarily known for its surrounding art and antiques galleries, or as a cut-through to nearby Bond Street. Dover Street Market’s arrival spurred other fashion retailers to open nearby, although the street remains primarily offices rather than retail.
A directly operated Tokyo branch of Dover Street Market opened in Ginza in March of this year.
Comme de Garçons has also partnered with Hong Kong retailer I.T on I.T Beijing Market in Beijing.
Other concepts include Black Comme des Garçons, a “guerrilla” brand launched in 2009 as an antidote to recession, and Comme des Garçons Pocket stores housing the brand’s Play collection, alongside limited-edition products, wallets and perfumes.