dot.comme was founded in june of 2013 with an explosion of vintage and archival pieces from designer labels - comme des garçons, junya watanabe, issey miyake, yohji yamamoto, walter van beirendonck and bernhard willhelm – appearing online. earlier this year the collection moved into a physical space – a studio in the nicholas building on swanston street. no such collection emerges overnight – the pieces from the late 1970s to today have been painstakingly curated by longtime collectors otto la rosa and holly-rose butler. their eye for beautiful design is matched only by their enthusiasm, passion and knowledge.
the distinct spaces offer up two fantastic retail experiences. their online website has runway photos, seasonal information, construction, materials and a host of other pertinent and oft forgotten details of these archival pieces, to say nothing of what could easily claim to be the largest online collection of its kind. the beauty of the page is its ability to frame the pieces within their appropriate historical context and an element that really lends itself to the kind of story telling these archival and collector pieces can do. then the simple and minimal studio in the nicholas building emerged. the space reminisce of a vintage store three levels up in some unmarked building down a questionable looking alley in tokyo's harajuku district – with the one caveat being that the store presents the clothing in a manner that allows their beauty to shine through. the brick and mortar experience is augmented through the presence of holly and otto – two passionate, intelligent guardians of what is arguably one of the greatest archival collections in the world.
being able to discuss the collection with them in person is a real marvel, they're personable and knowledgeable, and a real delight to talk to. this story-telling element again plays a pertinent role in the physical space, with otto and holly being able to talk you through every single piece they have, their specific collections, how they fit within the respective seasonal collection, how they fit within their own collection and where they purchased them – which is more often than not a incredible tale in itself. otto recalled the story of travelling half way across italy in search of a jacket to his matching velvet suit pants – and this is not an isolated event. the collection, as its title suggests, is crafted through years of hard work, refinement, research and an array of far flung international shopping trips. your author had the pleasure of visiting their store and spending an hour or so with otto and holly to talk about their collection and their plans for the future. location: nicholas building, 37 swanston street, level 3, room 4 [cbd].
what first sparked your interest in clothing? and why japanese // vintage // archival pieces? i became interested in clothing as a young teenager after first seeing what designers like walter and bernhard were doing at the time. it gave me a whole new perspective on clothing in general - that it could be fun and a great way to express yourself. i later found an affinity with designers out of japan just through research online looking through old runway photos which lead to finding pieces in shops on travels around europe and japan.
one might traditional associate archival pieces with a showroom - but dot.comme is named and was launched as an online venture - why online before bricks and mortar? the decision was based solely on the fact that a large slice of the market for archival pieces remains based abroad, being an online store really opens it up to everyone and allows us to be more adventurous with our buying.
what impact does the physical space you have entered - have on the clothing you are selling? it’s fantastic, it allows people to come see the clothes in person and try them on which is of course a completely different experience to online. we love meeting likeminded fans and chatting for hours, definitely makes it all worth it!
how do the two experiences differ? and how do you adopt your vision to these intrinsic differences? we try to research every item so we can provide dates, collections, runway photos where available and we believe these things are really important in an online shop to help share the history of the pieces.
the inherent sustainability of second hand clothing is an element that is often not explicitly considered, does it play any role in your business? absolutely, the history of items is a huge factor in what drives us to sell archival second hand clothing. the pieces we sell are truly timeless and our buyers are after something special they can’t get anywhere else, they certainly aren’t concerned with always wearing the current season.
what are you reading // watching // looking at for inspiration? always watching old collections and looking through our collection of catalogues [some of which we also sell in our store] - so inspiring to see the progression and transitions the designers make over time.
what are your favourite pieces or collections at the moment? for me the comme des garçons women’s collections and walter van beirendonck’s menswear consistently push the boundaries which i love to see!
when did the personal collection finish and a 'business' collection begin? or is that still just a very blurry line? it’s still a blurry line… having a 'business' collection is a just a way of justifying buying so many pieces of clothing!
is the fact that you are now purchasing clothing to resell affect your purchasing patterns? or does it remain a very much personally curated collection? i always buy for myself first, the consideration of whether the item is saleable or not doesn’t factor at all in my buying. if it did i wouldn’t have the same passion that i do and i don’t think it would work.
where do you buy from predominately? family and collectors we have connections with in europe account for the bulk of the collection. the occasional trip to japan turns over some hidden gems too, although you really have to hunt for those special pieces.
who do you sell to predominantely? mainly clients from new york, london and paris. many of our customers work within the fashion industry, and they're long-time collectors of the designers.
the dot.comme online store offers a really in-depth look at the clothing for sale - with a trove of information and corresponding runway and show photos. was this a conscious decision to frame the clothing within the broader context of a specific collection or look? research in this particular field is something i’m very passionate about so it’s really just about sharing my passion with likeminded individuals who care to know more about the designers or the specific pieces.