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VM Choice: Foamboys, Dover Street Market

It would be impossible not to select ‘Foamboys,’ the black foam figures created by Dutch artist Nick Pulles’ company, Heyniek, for Dover Street Market as a ‘VM Choice’ this week.

The foam or knitted figures, in jet-black, are very striking and work as excellent, eye-catching VM choices for this top-end, destination store.

The project developed from Pulles’ previous work the Clash Project, which used blue, yellow, or green foam in wearable man-sized suits. The Foamboy piece, which interestingly straddles the narrow, ‘Is-it-art?-Is-it-VM?-line,’ employs cut-chunks of shaped foam to cover the Dover Street Market mannequins. The foam is arranged in patterns with longer spiky pieces on the crowns of the heads, faintly suggesting hair. And to be honest, the black foam works rather better than the previous, coloured versions, in which the base, black fabric grins through.

In addition, a selection of mannequins wears black or cream over-sized, knitted, monster-like garments, comprised of inter-locked pieces, which chime with the textural effect of the foam in their textural-knit stitching. As I have observed previously, when the VM colour palette is reduced the texture needs to be ramped up in order to retain visual interest.

The window includes some merchandise, but it is sometimes a little hard in this ‘avant-garde’ store to determine what is display and what is merchandise. Therein lies its appeal.

Lastly, let’s take a look at how well this applies to fine art displays for Dover Street Market. The store of Comme Des Garcon’s designer, Rei Kewakubo, has only one store in London, although its Play range is available in Selfridges. In addition, the store is a multi-brand stockist, retailing selected ranges from Yves Saint Laurent, Hermes, Undercover, Sacai, and many other brands, all much-loved by their fashionable, super-cool, cognoscenti customers. Frankly, it wouldn’t matter where in London this store was located, as both customers and the curious would beat a path to the door. The same could be said of the other DSMs now in Tokyo, Paris, Beijing, New York, and Seoul, all surrounded by very nice fine-art galleries, and all helping to position fashion as ‘art’ to some extent.

In a way, the destination store recalls the VM strategies of the retailers with the old carriage-backed windows of the past, in that once the customer has trekked to the store, it really doesn’t matter what is in the window – as long as it is seems appropriate for the brand – because they will walk in to the store anyway. Famously, in the past the ‘carriage stores,’ as they were known, catered for customers who arrived by carriage, not on foot. Today’s equivalent, the DSMs are not really about passing trade, who might be inspired to walk in because of merchandise in the window.

So, does it work? Yes, for DSM, and brilliantly so.