The Zen approach extends to Joffe’s minimalist home in Paris’s Marais district, which Kawakubo designed. Cheerfully deflecting my attempt to see where he lives (“Not going to happen!” he says), Joffe describes it with one word: empty. The walls are mostly bare, and there are only a handful of pieces of furniture, including a Le Corbusier chair and a Poul Kjaerholm table. Joffe also has a small apartment in Marseille that’s “even more empty,” containing little besides an Ikea futon.
At all three branches of Dover Street, Kawakubo designs the overarching interiors and Joffe chooses the retail mix. James Gilchrist, the New York store’s general manager, says that when he was hiring the sales staff, his main directive from Joffe was “the more eccentric, the better.” Gilchrist remembers walking down a sidewalk in SoHo with Joffe and seeing a “really amazing guy with a big beard and weird moustache and piercings and a fake cat on his shoulder. And Adrian was like, ‘We need him.’”
One of Joffe’s many tasks at the company is to act as interpreter and gatekeeper for the resolutely private Kawakubo, who speaks little English and shows no interest in making herself understood to the outside world.
“That’s the worst part of my job,” Joffe says. “It’s hard to explain her, and I don’t really want to. But I am somewhat of a realist, and for business, you have to try.”