This weekend, the fashion industry’s favorite rare-book vendor and purveyor of highbrow Instagram eye candy, Idea Books, opened its first permanent store in New York at Dover Street Market. It’s not exactly new territory for the bookseller: Though the brand’s huge Instagram following has shifted a lot of its business online, founders Angela Hill and David Owen have operated a small space at London’s Dover Street Market for ten years. This past September, they launched a pop-up store at Dover Street Market New York, featuring exclusively Comme des Garçons books, which was up for about two months. “We spent the better half of a year collecting books, and it was the biggest, best collection of Comme des Garçons material ever put together,” Owen told the Cut. “The value came out to $30,000 or so, just of Comme books, most of which sold. It did fabulously well.”
Now, for the launch of the new space at Dover Street, their first permanent store in the U.S., Owen has curated a selection of what he calls Idea Books’ “greatest hits” — single copies of about 100 books so rare that Owen claims they are “absolutely unfindable.” The collection includes books like Stile in Progress, an anthology of L’Uomo Vogue highlights from 1968 to 1998, which has no ISBN number and was never sold, but given as a gift by Vogue to various contributors. “Generally speaking, it’s a very impressive book to have because you either bought it from us or you are Peter Lindbergh or the equivalent,” Owen explains. Other highlights from the New York store include Kate Who?, the now-scarce catalogue from Mario Testino’s 2010 exhibition at Phillips de Pury, a coveted copy of Derek Ridgers’s When We Were Young, and the first six volumes of Purple. According to Owen, they’ll be restocking and adding to the selection continually.
Asked about the process of tracking such books down, Owen says it’s a lot of trial and error. “We want to keep buying new things and breaking new ground, finding new areas to focus on. It’s actually really hard to do,” he says. “Our eyes are always open, so we might buy them from Japan on the internet, we might buy them from someone who is changing their career and clearing out their studio, we might buy them from someone who walks off the street into our office … If we find a publisher with a few books that we love, we might blindly buy other books they put out from those same years, and then find out later whether or not we like them.”
Click through the slideshow for a look at some of the unique, hard-to-find books currently on sale at Dover Street Market New York, including everything from Paula Yates’s Rock Stars in the Underpants to Vogue’s 1968 publication Book of Houses, Gardens, People, along with descriptions from Owen.