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London’s Dover Street Market re-opened March 19 with the sartorial set chomping at the bit to see the interior of the multi-level shop’s new location. The creation of visionary fashion designer Rei Kawakubo, of the Japanese label Comme des Garçons, the retail shop (which moved away from its eponymous street to Haymarket) is a must-stop in high-fashion circles. It carries labels such as Céline, Raf Simons and Sacai.

In terms of visual merchandizing, it borders on art installation with conceptual spaces and highly curated collections defining the atmosphere. The market’s latest incarnation has the same signature store-within-a-store approach, set within a historic 1912 building where little could be done to the existing structure. The original ceilings, windows, and central staircase were left untouched.

Each of the labels was given reign to imagine their own free-standing space. As a result, the atmosphere of each boutique differs greatly — a fantastic mash-up of materials, colours and eras. “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,” says Kawakubo.

Much like fashion itself, it’s fun, eclectic and personal. Most of the shops-cum-installations shun conventional approaches to retail display. And, not surprisingly, Comme des Garçons’ contributions stand out with an arresting contrast of dark and light, anchoring the emporium’s avant-garde take on retail. Just like other Dover Street Market locations – in New York and Tokyo – the Haymarket location brings together exhilirating visual stimuli, from the frocks for sale to the shopping experience itself.

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