Purple Magazine
— The 30YRS Issue #38 F/W 2022

3537 a new fashion lab in the heart of paris adrian joffe




interview by olivier zahm

photography by giasco bertoli


OLIVIER ZAHM — So, Adrian, for Comme des Garçons you created Dover Street Market, but before that, there were the Comme des Garçons guerilla stores.

ADRIAN JOFFE — That’s right. In February 2004, we opened the first one in Berlin. And in September 2004, we opened the first Dover Street in London. On Dover Street itself, hence the name. Then [in 2016] we moved to the old Burberry shop in Haymarket.


OLIVIER ZAHM — Dover Street Market totally disrupted the way we buy fashion. It’s a real experience. There’s a cultural and an architectural dimension. How did you come up with that concept?

ADRIAN JOFFE — No, I don’t like that word. What does “concept” mean? Rei Kawakubo and I wanted a place where you could find things that you couldn’t find anywhere else. We also wanted designers to do special things for us. We wanted the designers and brands to redesign their space inside every six months. It’s important for the shop to stay alive and to change all the time.

OLIVIER ZAHM — So, what was the idea at the beginning?

ADRIAN JOFFE — Rei and I wanted to have a place where we could have our collections for Comme des Garçons, but we thought it was more interesting to share our space with other designers. It’s about community and sharing. We always believed in synergy and that, if we put creative people together, somehow the energy, the vibration between the people, make it bigger than the sum of the parts.


OLIVIER ZAHM — Did you curate for DSM alone or with a team?

ADRIAN JOFFE — In the beginning, we did it together. But when we did the second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth, she was leaving it more and more to me.


OLIVIER ZAHM — It’s a very different approach to fashion. Where did you get this sensibility for a certain underground, this permanent search for something new?

ADRIAN JOFFE — Where did you get your brown eyes?


OLIVIER ZAHM — [Laughs] It’s in your genes.
ADRIAN JOFFE — I think it’s in the genes. Rei made Comme des Garçons in order to create something new. She said, “It’s not worth creating something that exists already.” That was always her. For us, it was important to break the rules, to ignore the establishment, to ignore the normal modes of retail.


OLIVIER ZAHM — And it’s something that can’t be copied because it’s based on your selection and your credibility in the fashion world.

ADRIAN JOFFE — People try, and people will sometimes make other versions, but I’ve never seen a good one. I see a lot of influence, even in department stores, They know that now, especially with the rise of Internet shopping, you have to encourage people to come out.


OLIVIER ZAHM — And create a community.

ADRIAN JOFFE — Yes. Also because you can’t get the energy, the synergy, the vibration, and the stimulation online. We always believed in brick and mortar.


OLIVIER ZAHM — And now, you’re pushing the whole story with 3537, a new concept which will include Dover Street Paris.

ADRIAN JOFFE — Yes, it started by renting a massive townhouse at 35-37 rue des Francs-Bourgeois, right before Covid hit Paris. So the place was empty and open to experiment with, before DVSM Paris could open there. But the experimentation became something unexpected.


OLIVIER ZAHM — More politically engaged, maybe?

ADRIAN JOFFE — Yes. More activist, more political, not just fashion. Culture is one part, but culture in the very broad sense. For me, it’s a community center. We had this idea, and then I found some young people to work with, and slowly, slowly it was starting. Then some other people joined, and we started doing all these things because the building was here, and it was empty. The more it evolved, the more excited we got, and the more things we did. Yoga classes, hip-hop concerts, climate-change conferences, workshops for children, and even raves. We would curate our own exhibitions.


OLIVIER ZAHM — So, it’s educational, political, and artistic.

ADRIAN JOFFE — Yes. More artistic in the very broad sense of the word. There’s an experimental music festival coming up. We’re doing an exhibition in October with seven or eight artists.


OLIVIER ZAHM — And you also have what you call La Petite Boutique, showing new, young designer brands.

ADRIAN JOFFE — That’s right. This is part of our brand-development division. We take care of 10 or 11 brands now. We wanted to showcase them, and we just wanted a little boutique to give a taste to people that there might be a shop here. But what kind of shop we’ll do, we haven’t decided yet. It’s very organic.


OLIVIER ZAHM — And you already have six Dover Street Markets: New York, London, Los Angeles, Tokyo…

ADRIAN JOFFE — Yes. Singapore and Beijing. So, Paris should be something very different. And if Paris can now be the strongest and take Dover Street to another level, hopefully, the energy, the excitement, and spirit can infuse… All the Dover Streets will be involved. It’s an exchange. They will give me all their know-how, their experience. And I will give them some new push to take it to another level.


OLIVIER ZAHM — So, you put your faith in young people to work with you and create a new place for fashion, art, politics in Paris.

ADRIAN JOFFE — Yes. I think that’s the important thing. You have to trust young people.


OLIVIER ZAHM — Is it your experience, your life in Japan, your knowledge of Zen culture that makes you able to be a good manager in that sense?

ADRIAN JOFFE — Maybe. But my way of managing is often absent.


OLIVIER ZAHM — By retraction. That’s very Zen.

ADRIAN JOFFE — It’s very Zen, yes. The absence of management is the best management. It’s about trust, faith, belief, and teamwork. I don’t believe in hierarchy. Everybody has their function.


OLIVIER ZAHM — Yes. And a bit anarchic?

ADRIAN JOFFE — It’s not totally anarchic. We also need strict rules. We experienced this with the Comme des Garçons guerilla stores. One of the first rules is that there’s no hierarchy. Everybody shares everything with everybody. People have clear roles and functions in order to create an alternative. Anarchy doesn’t really create anything by itself. It’s mostly destructive. But guerilla work is constructive.


OLIVIER ZAHM — Strict rules, but no hierarchy.

ADRIAN JOFFE — We share — it’s very democratic. We vote. There’s no dictatorship. It’s the only way. Who decides if it’s no good? These people, my team, they worked seven days a week, 24 hours a day sometimes. And I didn’t make them work — they just wanted to be here all the time. It was just beautiful to watch. I gave them the freedom, and they gave me the energy. I only intervened when it was égalité — then I had to have the deciding vote.


OLIVIER ZAHM — So, it’s not Occupy Wall Street — it’s Occupy Dover Street. [Laughs]

ADRIAN JOFFE — Yes, it’s like a movement. It’s too bombastic to say this, but I think it’s a new way because as Comme des Garçons gets bigger, we become more corporate with hierarchy. This is necessary for the corporate side of business when you get big, but I want 3537 to be the antithesis of that.


OLIVIER ZAHM — Which is faithful to the punk side of Comme des Garçons.

ADRIAN JOFFE — Yes, exactly. Rei’s always been punk. She always needs to break the rules. And she’s always been against dictatorship and totalitarianism and bad government and populism. She said to me recently: “We have to fight for new things and break the rules and the establishment.” Like you’ve done with Purple — you’ve never followed the rules, right?


OLIVIER ZAHM — No. But I also have to be careful that Purple doesn’t become a sort of institution.

ADRIAN JOFFE — Exactly. This is a constant battle. It’s almost anti-institutionalism.


OLIVIER ZAHM — And to keep being inspired and excited. Which you are. Because it’s been, what, 40 years that you’ve been working in fashion?

ADRIAN JOFFE — At least, yes. Too many, for sure. But 3537 — and what we are creating here — is giving me a new lease on life.


OLIVIER ZAHM — You still have the same sense of optimism.

ADRIAN JOFFE — Yes, you have to. It’s not always easy, especially with the world as it is, so fucked up. But if you want to carry on working, you have to be optimistic. You have to believe that things can get better. That human nature is not devolving. That it’s not going into the Dark Ages.


OLIVIER ZAHM — I have to say thank you to you and Rei, for being one of the first brands, with Helmut Lang, to believe in Purple. And advertise in it. Thirty years ago.

ADRIAN JOFFE — I remember. But you gave me as much support as I gave you. It’s always a two-way street.


[Table of contents]

The 30YRS Issue #38 F/W 2022

Table of contents

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