Fashion entrepreneur Campbell McDougall guesses that he’s visited Paris about 55 times. In a recent phone interview with the Georgia Straight, McDougall wryly noted that there’s a reason why chairs at Parisian sidewalk cafés all seem to face the street. It’s so that customers have a front-row seat to observe the “fashion dandies”, as he refers to them, going about their daily affairs.
“It costs almost nothing to watch all these people, men and women both, parade up and down the street with their viewpoint on who they are and what their communication is,” he said.
McDougall, a long-time resident of Vancouver who now lives in Berlin, has tried to bring this same sensibility to men’s fashion in Vancouver through a project he’s dubbed Komakino. Described by McDougall as a “concept” rather than a store, Komakino is from a Joy Division song, and changes location each season.
Komakino 5.0 opened this season in the basement of 109 West Cordova Street, which is also home to the Back Door Gallery. The previous incarnation, Komakino 4.0, was located at 8 Water Street. It’s no coincidence that each new generation of the store gets a different number, just like a new software package.
“For two years, we’ve been changing every single season,” McDougall said. “Uprooting and changing the environment, the size, and maybe even the area of town that it’s in. But it is always a project that’s morphing and evolving. It’s difficult to say what that might lead to in two years.”
This summer, he plans to open a new clothing outlet in Berlin called Darklands.
McDougall visits Milan every year, and over the past six months he has also made stops in Shanghai, Amsterdam, and Copenhagen. He spends six to eight weeks per year in Japan, which he considers the world’s most progressive fashion market.
Some of these trips are for pleasure; others are to find the work of new designers. One of his favourite parts of Paris is the Marais, the trendy, narrow-streeted former Jewish district that has evolved into a modern fashion sensation. Komakino carries apparel and accoutrements designed by Rick Owens and Damir Doma from France, Number (N)ine and Undercover from Japan, Ann Demeulemeester and Raf Simons from Belgium, and Carol Christian Powell from Italy, among others.
“None of these brands would be here [in Vancouver] if we weren’t here,” McDougall said.
He said that he used to operate a more conventional menswear store in Vancouver called Bruce from 2000 to 2005. He was inspired to adopt his current guerrilla approach after seeing high-end brands draped over doorknobs and on cardboard boxes in a Berlin shop. “One of the things we really try to communicate with our environments is that they are really interesting,” McDougall said. “It’s pretty clear to a passing observer that we haven’t spent a lot of money on this space”¦We’re only going to be there for six months.”