Twice a year Dover Street Market gets the decorators in. It’s called the Tachiagari ("beginning" in Japanese) and the refit celebrates the new year, the rejuvenation of the creative spirit, and the season's new collections. DSM revealed its spring 2013 arrivals this week, and it’s clear that Rei Kawakubo’s Mayfair behemoth is in no danger of losing its edge. While the big names—YSL, Lanvin and the various Comme des Garçons lines, of course—get the lion’s share of coverage, it’s the store's support of young designers that sets the store apart.
Over tea and cakes from Rose Bakery, located on the top floor, DSM introduced some of its up-and-coming designers in their first few seasons of association with the store. It’s an eclectic bunch of newbies, including Phoebe English, whose graduate collection delighted Dalston’s witchlings with cloaks constructed from human hair. Never let it be said that London doesn’t nurture its goths.
Stocked for the first time are Palmer Harding, a duo specializing in shirting for men and women, and who expand the possibilities of the humble button-down more than you’d think possible. No wonder Cotton USA is their sponsor. Yang Li, another DSM first-timer, had a poetic metaphor for the incongruously unfinished seams of his monastically androgynous tailoring: "It’s like the difference between recorded music and live music," he mused—well, he is a graduate of Raf Simons’s atelier.
Meanwhile, Simone Rocha, whose 3rd Floor space has been expanded this season, has been leaned upon to provide window-dressing services. The 26-year-old design supernova’s wall of silvery flowers—inspired, she says, by the lanes and alleyways of her childhood home in rural Ireland—is an evocative summation of her minimalist romantic aesthetic.
But how to get DSM’s buyers on the phone? It seems a trip to the movies is the key. Men's designer Lee Roach cited 1979’s Breaking Away with "a hybrid of sportswear mixed with classic tailoring, an old American sportswear feel with light jersey pieces and varsity jackets." As for Palmer Harding—who're gaining a reputation for their pared-down, subtly directional cutting—surely a high-brow, subtitled indie film? Uh, no. "We started by looking at Clueless," said Levi Palmer, one half of the label. "We took it to a different level but you can see it in the little cropped shirt, if you remember Cher wearing a jumper with a long sheer shirt. It’s about taking references that we like, something that’s light-hearted and turning it into something thought-provoking and interesting." Avant garde, meet Alicia Silverstone.
Happy new year, DSM. You’ve still got it.