Sacai in Dover Street Market


20 August 2013

The Japanese clothing brand Sacai has opened a dedicated space at Dover Street Market. Transforming familiar designs and silhouettes, the clothing is functional yet surprising.

On 13 July the brand launched its "shop-in-shop" in Dover Street Market in London. Sacai was created by the designer Chitose Abe in 1999, who had spent the previous eight years working with designers Rei Kawakubo and Junya Watanabe at Comme des Garçons.

Although the Dover Street Market space is Sacai’s first dedicated retail outlet outside of Asia, Abe’s A/W 2013 show in Paris was met with critical acclaim, expanding the brand's international status.

Subverting and re-imagining classic designs from the trench coat to the leather biker jacket, Sacai’s designs adopt a focus on functionality. In addition to the main line collection, the space also includes the Sacai Luck collection. “I see the Sacai Luck as a collection that the Sacai customer will wear on their day off when they want something a bit more relaxed,” says Abe.

Abe collaborated with the Japanese artistic collective Gelchop to design and create the Sacai space. Founded in 2000 by Ryota Morikawa, Tetsuya Ozawa, Ryohei Takahashi, Gelchop has created shelving units made from un-finished wood alongside grey steel and pale pink highlights.

Below Abe discusses the ethos of the brand, her creative process, and the influences on her work.

The label was established in 1999, why have you waited until now for the first dedicated space in Europe, and why Dover Street Market specifically?
It is difficult to explain a specific reason as I have always grown my business in a very organic way, but it’s always about what I think of as the “right” timing. It was only 2 years ago that I opened the first Sacai flagship store in Tokyo’s Minamiaoyama. Dover Street Market was one of the first stores to begin carrying my collection and I always loved the way the store displayed their merchandise as I felt it had great impact. The timing just felt right.

What influence has your time at Comme des Garcons had on your work?
I think my experience there really taught me the challenges of creating a new idea from a blank slate. This made me realize the importance of approaching everything from a uniquely original point of view, not just for the creative design process, but for the entire business.

Your clothes are still always manufactured in Tokyo, why is this important for you?
I think that Tokyo is a unique city where different people and cultures coexist to bring forth new ideas. Living in this city, I am greatly influenced by the subtle feelings and sometimes even slight discomforts that I experience. I believe that the Sacai collection is what it is because of the fact that I am living and designing in Tokyo.

Could you explain the creative process you go through when designing?
The process is quite abstract; I may begin with a few key words in mind, such as “hard” or “soft and fluffy”, that may evoke a specific image. I find a way to translate the key words into three-dimensional shapes and by working and re-working the patterns I come to the final pieces you see.

I believe that fashion is not art and should be functional. I always make sure that my designs for the Sacai collection are wearable and the comfort for the person is extremely important to me. I do not have a specific audience or buyer in mind when designing, but I imagine it might be a strong independent minded person.

What is the relationship between this collection and your previous work?
I always create collections that are based on classic styles, but re-interpreted in a new way. I may change the type of classic styles I focus on or the specific methods I use but this is a theme throughout my collections every season.

The Sacai collection has always been based on classic silhouettes. Each of these familiar items, such as the button down shirt, cardigan, Chesterfield coat, which I use as a starting point are deconstructed, changing the fabrication, adding elements, or combining different ideas to create a modern interpretation of the classic item. For this season I focused on the classic items such as the trench coat, motorcycle jacket, and MA-1 flight jacket amongst other styles.

Could you talk about your relationship with Gelchop during the process?
When I find people I am interested in, I always want to find a way to collaborate with them. I have been lucky in that in most cases we had a natural understanding of one another and without having to use many words, we have been able to communicate our ideas. In this situation as well, I only had to give a brief description of the Sacai brand and together we came up with something truly beautiful and perfect for Sacai.