PARIS, France — Building a ready-to-wear brand wasn’t part of the plan when former Daft Punk manager Gildas Loaëc and architect Masaya Kuroki founded an independent music label and small fashion business in 2002. The Paris-based Kitsuné, which worked with artists like Two Door Cinema Club, Phoenix and Hot Chip, quickly earning cred in the music industry.
But today, it’s the company’s ready-to-wear line, launched in 2005, that drives 90 percent of revenue, with the music label and Café Kitsuné — a food and beverage play that has branches in Paris, Tokyo and, soon, London — accounting for 5 percent each.
The company currently operates 16 monobrand fashion stores in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Hong Kong and Honolulu, and the line is carried at over 400 stockists, including Mr Porter, MatchesFashion and Lane Crawford.
"Maison Kitsuné continues to go from strength to strength due to its truly global appeal and light-hearted design aesthetic," noted Damien Paul, head of menswear at MatchesFashion, who said the retailer's sales of Maison Kitsuné ready-to-wear have grown by 50 percent over the last year, something he attributed to the collection's fun, recognisable and appealing price-to-quality ratio.
The brand's competitively-priced items include faux shearling-lined corduroy trucker jackets for $420, crewneck, lambswool sweaters for $275 and fox-printed cotton sweatshirts for $230. It also offers more accessible items like phone cases for $40, scented candles for $60 and logoed canvas totes for $50.
Kitsuné received a boost in October 2016, when Japanese fashion group Stripe International took a minority stake in the company, helping to fuel both retail and e-commerce expansion. And, all told, the company generated €40 million (about $46 million) last year.
But Loaëc and Kuroki are far from done.
“We’re at a turning point where we have a good momentum and a lot of followers [so] we want to expand our growth further,” explained Loaëc, who added that in the past year Maison Kitsuné had optimised its supply chain, made key hires and has seen strong demand from Asia, all of which has given him confidence to take the brand to the next level. “Within the next five years we aim to generate €100 million in annual revenue.”
To achieve this, the brand’s founders have big plans to tap the Asian market. On Friday, Maison Kitsuné will open its first flagship in Seoul, complete with a Café Kitsuné, in partnership with the South Korean conglomerate Samsung, with which the brand plans to open another 10 shop-in-shops and five Café Kitsunés in South Korea over the next three years.
"Over the past few years, Samsung and Maison Kitsuné have grown together by relying on each others qualities and strengths," says Philip Kim, manager of Samsung Fashion. "Our retail presence and media buying power combined with Maison Kitsuné's significant commercial potential and unique brand identity, creates a perfect synergy to generate sustainable benefits and in turn make an unprecedented impact and influence on the Korean retail and fashion market."
Next year, Maison Kitsuné will further extend its reach in Asia, breaking ground in Indonesia and Greater China, where it plans to open over 50 stores in the next four years with the help of a local partner.
The company is also planning a genderless sister line, ACIDE Maison Kitsuné, which will launch in mid-November, followed by a collaboration with Eastpak and a Café Kitsuné pop-up in Sydney. A Café Kitsuné will open in London in March 2019, followed by a second location in Paris the next month.
But the label's biggest move to date is set to be unveiled in 2020 when Loaëc and Kuroki plan to open the first-ever Hotel Kitsuné in Uluwatu in Bali, Indonesia, with local partner Buva Group.
“It’s a great way of introducing all of the things our brand offers,” said Loaëc. “It will be a showcase of what’s possible with the Kitsuné brand.” Watch this space.