It might be celebrated for its guerilla stores that have been popping up since 2004, but Comme des Garçons has just unveiled a new permanent venture - an epic new flagship store in Seoul. Part futuristic rabbit warren, part conceptual shopping space, 'Five Tunnels' joins the brand's clutch of permanent stores located in design hubs around the world.
Led by the fashion label founder and designer, Rei Kawakubo, the project started with the ambitious redesign of an existing building. The resulting white-lacquer and glass space is, at 1600sq m, one of their biggest stores yet.
Spanning seven mezzanine levels and stocking the entire Comme des Garçons collection, it's a more than adequate answer to the brand's growing South Korean fan base. There's even a room dedicated to the popular 'Beatles' clothing collection that has a major following in the city.
But while the ground floor hosts a Rose Bakery and Comme des Garçons 'Play Box' (a kind of pop-up retail space), the main design highpoints are, in fact, the most hidden. The biggest surprise belongs to the five enclosed sloping tunnels (formerly inter-mezzanine bridges) that connect the retail floors. These corridor-cum-gallery spaces house a specially curated series of products from Comme des Garçons, as well as other designers and artists.
'Every store we do is completely different,' explains Adrian Joffe, president of Comme des Garçons International and Kawakubo's husband. 'The new Seoul store houses the entire world of Comme des Garçons, as well as products by various other people as a kind of spice to decorate and animate the five tunnels.'
Delving underground meanwhile, a Comme des Garçons 'Six' gallery will soon be unveiled in the basement. The second such in-store art space for the brand, it will host exhibitions three times a year. The program kicks off in October with an exhibition of work by David Lynch, but more of that later...