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Dover Street Market London
Collage by Callum Abbott

The School of Dover Street Market

As Dover Street Market celebrates its 15-year anniversary, six alumni share how the radical concept store has shaped their lives and careers

Lead ImageCollage by Callum Abbott

Tomorrow, Dover Street Market celebrates its 15-year anniversary, marking a decade and a half of its reign as the world’s most radical and revolutionary retail space. Much more than a store, DSM has, as Adrian Joffe writes in his essay for the new issue of AnOther Magazine, from the very start been a place “where people can meet each other and exchange ideas and show their individual vision”. Writing for the S/S16 issue of AnOther Magazine, Susannah Frankel expresses a similar sentiment, describing it as a “beloved high-fashion forum”, while writing for this article, Dazed editor-in-chief Isabella Burley calls it a “family”.

Founded by Joffe and Rei Kawakubo, DSM is a school, too. Since opening its doors on 10 September 2004, it has been a fertile training ground for a steady stream of emerging creatives who have cut their teeth on the shop floor: from editors-in-chief like Burley to writers like Dean Mayo Davies, who contributes to AnOthermag.com; artist Phoebe Collings-James and curator Ariella Wolens are also among the store’s alumni, along with designers Charlie Casely-Hayford and Nicholas Daley, actor Callum Turner, and many more. And despite moving, expanding, and opening stores all over the world, DSM has never compromised, always maintained that near impossible balance of creativity and commerciality, and stayed true to that idea of being a place of meeting and exchange.

As the store celebrates its anniversary (with a series of special product launches and installations, launching on 29 November), six alumni share how their careers – and lives – have been shaped by the store and the magic of its “beautiful chaos”.

“Sometimes we joke that DSM was a cult – a secret community, that you never really know until you’ve worked there – but for me, it will always be that weird family that raised me and taught me everything I know” – Isabella Burley

Isabella Burley, Editor-in-Chief of Dazed and Confused

“I was just 17 when I started working at Dover Street Market. I was still at college, had short, bleach blonde hair and would turn up to work in the most insane platforms. A year later, I dropped out of art school and so, in every sense, Dover Street Market was my education – giving me a vocabulary and a lens to see the world through that I still use today. I stayed for five years, until I was 22, only eventually leaving to join the team at Dazed & Confused – which, coincidentally, all happened because of the brilliant Dean Mayo Davies, who I worked with in the early days of DSM. 

For me, it was a place to dream. A home for the most wonderful weirdos. Peter Saville, Rick Owens, Rihanna, Uma Thurman, Steven Spielberg, Steven Tyler – even Kylie – would all come in, try on clothes and then stay for hours telling you the craziest stories. Most of the time I was a blissfully unaware teenager, too naive to know who anyone was (sorry Jared Leto when you hit on me or Steven Klein when I steamed your shirt) but they each made an impact. It also took me a year to pronounce Ann Demeulemeester, find out Junya Watanabe was a man and fold perfectly without using a folding board. All very important life lessons.

Most importantly, though, Dover Street has never really been a store – it’s always been a family. There are people there who literally raised me: Flo, Kamel, Karina, Herve, Daisy, Alex, Electra, Joe, Trevor, Dickon and Lukas thank you. I also made friends for life, who continue to inspire me and shape our industry every day – Lizzie, Dean, Laura, Charlie, Tessa, Grace, Ariella, Phoebe, Sara, Jordan, Richard. All of these people taught me and each other how to be uncompromising, what personal taste really meant, and how to support and love each other.

Sometimes we joke that DSM was a cult – a secret community, that you never really know until you’ve worked there – but for me, it will always be that weird family that raised me and taught me everything I know.”

“Being at Dover Street Market, on Dover Street was all about the brilliant people I encountered, the exchanges we had and the atmosphere of restless expression” – Dean Mayo Davies

Dean Mayo Davies, writer and editor on fashion and culture, and contributor to AnOthermag.com

“During the A/W09 season, there was a Number (N)ine ivory silk tunic that I was fixated with, it had silk fringing running down the arms and hanging from its fabric-covered buttons. After eyeing it for what felt like months, I finally got it – and, even after the agonising wait, it brought me so much joy. But though I tend to measure time with fashion, being at Dover Street Market, on Dover Street was all about the brilliant people I encountered, the exchanges we had and the atmosphere of restless expression. Hanging out with designers, artists, actors, musicians, stylists and great characters didn’t feel like work. And the Comme des Garçons connection was authentic: Adrian was very present. It was in the lineage of cult London shops like Sex and Kensington Market, the latter Rei Kawakubo was inspired by. One day, I remember having a theoretical conversation with Charlie Casely-Hayford about unlined tailoring, which I’ve never liked: he made me appreciate how it had to be perfect because everything was exposed. I respect that, even if I haven’t changed my mind. It was while working at Dover Street my friend Hervé and I had the idea of doing a video DJ night at the George & Dragon. So we did, again and again. There was a fabulous lady who’d meet her friend for lunch at Rose Bakery wearing Nike sport socks with her Church’s – quite the styling flourish paired with a cashmere coat and a Birkin carried so modestly as to be overlooked. One day she asked Phoebe Collings-James about her earrings. I’m still very fond of everyone, and I love seeing what they’re up to: in galleries, magazines, the cinema or on TV. You’ll know the cool, enigmatic girl called Isabella, of course: she is Dazed’s Editor-in-Chief.”

“[Meeting artist Katerina Jebb] was just one of the serendipitous encounters that I had in the eight years I worked on and off at DSM, in which a chance meeting shaped everything that has come since” – Ariella Wollens

Ariella Wolens, writer and curator

“I remember my first day working at DSM in 2008. I was a green, little fashion worshipper who was willing to do anything to be in that achingly chic domain. There I was in the fifth hour, losing feeling in my gold Pierre Hardy high-tops, when the goddess of pop, Kylie Minogue, strode in with an ethereal accomplice draped in fawn-coloured crepe. I followed them around like a lost duckling, waiting with feeble enthusiasm to be of any assistance. I soon learned that Kylie’s conspirator was an artist named Katerina Jebb, a collaborator of Comme des Garçons’ who had just installed a mural in the basement where I was assigned to peddle wares. Within moments, I was set to have an internship with Katerina in Paris that summer, an experience that formed the trajectory of my career as a writer and curator. This was just one of the serendipitous encounters that I had in the eight years I worked on and off at DSM, in which a chance meeting shaped everything that has come since.

“I was introduced to amazing designers, artists and creatives while wearing clothing worth more than what was in my bank account. That juxtaposition, alongside a sense of community and collaboration, informs a lot of what I do now at Simone Rocha” – Lizzie Ridout

Lizzie Ridout, Head of Special Projects at Simone Rocha

“I worked at the original DSM store on Dover Street for four years while I was a fashion student. I made some incredible friends whilst working there. The first designer clothing I ever owned was my Comme des Garçons uniform. I was introduced to amazing designers, artists and creatives while wearing clothing worth more than what was in my bank account. That juxtaposition, alongside a sense of community and collaboration, informs a lot of what I do now at Simone Rocha.”

“Working at DSM was in an immersion in a world – endless ideas of how to curate, dress, interact, display, behave, create, surprise. Genuinely useful and inspiring stuff that continues to inform what I do today” – Laura Bradley

Laura Bradley, editorial consultant

“I always used to say that I learnt more working at DSM on a Saturday than I did studying at Central Saint Martins for four years. I realise now, this experience was much more than an education in ‘fashion’. Working at DSM was in an immersion in a world – endless ideas of how to curate, dress, interact, display, behave, create, surprise. Genuinely useful and inspiring stuff that continues to inform what I do today. I worked on the first floor of the original Dover Street store, which meant seven hours of Comme, Alaïa, Margiela, and Demuelemeeseter. The customers were like nothing I’d witnessed before: a multitude of tastes and behaviours, all passionate and extremely knowledgeable. And they all seem to wear brilliant fragrance – it would linger in the box-like changing rooms. I often think about the woman that would only ever buy navy Comme des Garçons pieces. The team at DSM were equally fascinating: individual, supportive and truly inspiring. I made lifelong friends there.”

“It’s probably one of the only stores which would allow me to bring a full reggae sound system rig into the store and have a pop-up party, which shows their open-minded approach to supporting young creatives” – Nicholas Daley

Nicholas Daley, designer

“Dover Street Market has had an important impact on my career. I worked weekends there during my studies at Central Saint Martins, which enabled me to help finance my final graduate collection. Then I had my brand stocked there – among so many other brands that I admire and respect. It’s great to see how it has affected so many creatives and I am very happy to be part of this. The community it has created allows cross-pollination between designers, staff and customers – even to this day I have great friends and work with individuals who I met during my time there. One special memory was when I saw my collection stocked at the DSM London for the first time, which was a surreal experience but also a moment where I felt confident in my work and my brand to sit along so many other great designers. Now my collection is stocked in other DSM stores such as Ginza and Singapore, continuing their support and allowing my creative message to reach so many more people. It’s probably one of the only stores which would allow me to bring a full reggae sound system rig into the store and have a pop-up party, which shows their open-minded approach to supporting young creatives.”

Dover Street Market celebrates 15 years with a series of special product launches and installations, launching November 29, 2019.