Neighborhood Watch: Dover Street Market

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I have not been so excited by a retail environment in New York since the expansion of Barney’s on 17th and 7th Avenue way back when. No kidding, Dover Street Market is a game changer and makes you love fashion all over again. DSM is a retail vision as conceived by the visionary and creator of the Comme des Garcon empire, Rei Kawakubo. The New York store opened in December of 2013, the third of it’s kind following stores in London and Ginza. So why did it take me so long to finally find my way down there? Maybe it’s because there is literally zero marketing to promote it after the initial buzz surrounding its opening. It could also have something to do with the oddball location at 30th Street and Lexington Avenue. I never find myself just strolling around there and even if I did I would walk right by it, there’s no signage or window displays. You have to be looking for it and know that the entrance is on 30th street despite the Lexington Avenue address.

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Looking down at the café.
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The clever jewelry display.

Brother blogger Eric, of Emperor’s Real Clothes, and I finally made a date to meet there.   As soon as we crossed the threshold we were transported to a finely curated world of creative expression. The first thing you see is a large, oddly shaped column completely covered in multi colored hand knit patches. It bisects the charming café with a little hardware/house goods area that is so well curated you want to buy every little domestic tool offered as much for their simplicity as for their no nonsense good looks.   To the left of the entrance is the jewelry area.   In front of the windows are cases housing Lucite rectangles of varying heights each with a jewel displayed on top.   The cleverness of the display was matched by the unique charm of each precious piece; all from indie jewelers and all unlike anything I’ve seen anywhere else.

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Original thinking goes into all the displays.
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Eric models Gucci.
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I pine for this Gucci backpack.
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It took us a moment to realize this was the display and not work in progress.

Our delight and enthusiasm continued on each of the remaining 6 levels. Men’s, Women’s and accessories can be found on each floor of pleasing scale, not too overwhelming or too small. Comme des Garcon, Gucci and Balenciaga were well represented along with many more indie designers. Each company represented from skate boarding lines to high concept designers are finely curated so each piece is special and worthy of the real estate. Appreciation for cutting edge design as well as an ahead of the curve feeling is the common thread. Looking at their offerings for footwear, which is probably 80 percent trainers, transformed my thinking on shoes instantly.

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Azzedine Alaia
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So many trainers.
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A book nook dealing with mainly out of print books.

The other element that sets Dover Street Market apart from the other high-end retailers in town is its sense of fun as represented in the quirky interiors and displays. The sales people uniformly were friendly and completely unobtrusive, though available if you needed them. The atmosphere is so relaxed that we freely snapped pictures and clowned around trying on the clothes. Something I would never do in Barneys or Bergdorf Goodman. Three and a half hours flew by in this fun house of fashion. We ended our visit with perfect lattes in the charming café, all in all a wonderful experience. I’ll be a regular there from now on.

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In front of the unmarked entrance.