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Dover Street Market Market: the good, the bad and the greedy

Let’s get this straight: Dover Street Market Market is not cool. It’s fabled, certainly. It’s spoken of with excitement, with breathless FOMO. It’s rare, it only occurs only once every five (or so) years. And it’s the only place you’ll find Comme des Garçons and other DSM brands reduced by up to 80%. But cool? Cool, it is not.

Visit any typical DSM or Comme des Garçons outpost and you’ll encounter the brand’s signature artfulness; straight-faced and deliciously austere, but always progressive. Sadly (whether by accident or design) the Dover Street Market Market events taking place this week at Printworks are stubbornly regressive. Inside you’ll see humans become beasts. Driven by greed, scrabbling and gnawing like starving pigs on a corpse. Watch as 65,000 years of behavioural evolution burns on a pyre of Futura 2000 tote bags.

If you are a social anthropologist looking to study the nadir of human civility, I recommend a visit. If you’re looking to find an affordable Sacai jacket in your size, you might want to think twice.

At time of writing I’ve visited DSMM twice. Here’s how it went down:

Monday 15th May (VIP preview)

My invite says 2.00pm, but anticipating a queue, I show up two hours early. A security guy waves me through.

“It think it’s started already”, he says. Yesss!

I march up the path towards the venue. Then I hit the metal railings. I have to wait till 2.00pm  — more important people than me have invites for 11.00am and they are already inside buying all the good stuff.

I settle in for the long haul. There are only two others waiting. A grey beard speaking Russian into an ear piece, and a giant Japanese boy sitting on a huge wheeled suitcase. Neither of them look keen to discuss the intricacies of the MCU, so I sip my latte and zone out to the wisdom of Ghostface Killah.

The most irritating thing about the queue is not the wait. It’s watching people leave. People who got in at 11am, have already rinsed the rails and are now drifting past swinging bags heavy with loot. They’re all grinning and hooting into their phones. Queuing losers like me don’t warrant a glance.

The line behind me gets big, then bigger, then supermassive. Young and old, rich and richer: a melting pot of Japanese Comme fans, moneyed blandoids and fuckbois in trapper hats.

More people leave, dragging with them bags spilling with clothes. I’m not one for destiny, but waiting here, impotent, behind the railings, I can’t help but wonder if someone has just bought the piece I was supposed to have? Will there even be anything left? My latte went cold ages ago.

And then, suddenly, I’m in. There are still a few loitering from the 11am shift, but it’s pretty empty. I’m fully aware of the giant convoy of people just behind me though, so I set to work on the rails. Comme for men: mostly Homme Deux, some of which I like, but the sizes are too small. Can’t see any Comme Homme and the Comme SHIRT pieces are mostly those artist collaborations that no one wants.

Then I luck out. A beautiful navy Sacai coat, my size, was a grand, now £200  — I’m having it. Then again! A Sacai knitted crew neck with the brand’s signature nylon hem: was £550, but there’s 80% to come off that. OMG, this is amazing.

My girl is not with me, so I find some pieces she might like. I hang them on a metal fence, WhatsApp some snaps to her, and wait for the verdict. She wants the frilly blue Comme skirt and the Tao gilet. Then a security guy tells me off for hanging clothes on the metal fence, which is, apparently, a piece of art.

“You wouldn’t go into the Tate and hang clothes on the art would you?”, he frowns.

I pay for my four pieces and walk to the exit. But my bag feels oddly light. My beautiful navy Sacai coat is missing.

Racing back to the till, I show my receipt and a search begins for the coat I have just paid for. It has somehow vanished between the till point and the bagging area. They can’t find it. I am shellshocked. Apologies are made, a refund is given and I wander out into the daylight feeling like someone has just kneed me in the stomach. I vow never to return.

Tuesday 16th May 

After a night haunted by the missing Sacai coat, I decide to return. Could destiny be playing with me? Perhaps the coat ended up back on the rails and I’m meant to go back and find it again?

My train back to Canada Water is canceled. I grab an Uber and urge the driver to floor it. The sale opens at 11am and when I arrive at 9.45am the queue is already immense. I chew some gum and decide to see what else I can learn from Ghostface Killah.

Today’s queue is a stone cold bastard. Yesterday’s crowd had a modicum of dignity, today’s is a tsunami of cunts. One of the security men tells me that people have been marching to the front, trying to pretend they’ve been there all along. I see people vaulting the metal rails and nipping out to ‘use the toilet’ then magically turning up ahead of me in the line  — the queue-jumping is shameless.

Hours pass. Time becomes meaningless. The screensaver in my brain pops up and I drift away, forgetting why I’m here.

Then I’m in again. But this time it’s worse, much worse. The place is heaving. Everyone seems to be carrying at least two laundry bags overflowing with clothes. There are clothes on the floor. Clothes fall off rails. Clothes are getting trodden on. Rei Kawakubo’s, vision for DSM might be ‘beautiful chaos’, but DSMM is just chaos.

I try and make sense of things and focus on finding something to make this ordeal worth it. But I keep getting barged and hit in the face by swinging bags. I’m looking at a piece on the rail when a girl with giant headphones swipes her way up the rail, pushes me, and the piece I was holding, out the way, and continues up the rail. Since when did clothes shopping become SAS selection?

I watch as resellers grab armfuls of key sizes then camp out on the floor with their multiple bags. This leaves people like me, people looking to buy one or two things for themselves, royally fucked. All I can do is keep doing laps of the place in the hope that something nice might find its way back on the rails.

I find a plain navy Homme Plus shirt in my size, with discount it’ll come to £67. It’s no Sacai coat, but it’s still a win.

The dog fight continues. Elbows, knees, bags swinging like pugil sticks. I keep wandering the same area, as I can see the staff are desperately trying to restock the rails from the mountains of discarded clothing. But nothing comes of it. I grow weary and leave with my shirt.

As a life-long Comme fan, it’s a shame that what should be a celebration of fandom, is so dominated by the ignorant.

Dover Street themselves are clearly aware of the situation, they issued an email apology yesterday and promise better service for the rest of the week. I wish them well, although I have no idea how they’ll achieve it.

The staff during my visits were uniformly pleasant. Sadly, it’s the disrespectful attitude and shameless greed of a large number of the attendees that ruin it for everyone else.

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