How Maison Kitsuné Became a 'Fashion Brand' This Week

The French/Japanese brand/record label just showed at New York Fashion Week for the first time.
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The French/Japanese brand/record label just showed at New York Fashion Week for the first time.
Maison Kitsuné spring 2015. Photo: Emily Anne Faultstich

Maison Kitsuné spring 2015. Photo: Emily Anne Faultstich

The theme of Maison Kitsuné's first-ever New York Fashion Week presentation Wednesday was "effortless French." We thought this was odd coming from a brand that's actually French — usually, that term is used by commercial American brands trying to market that chic, undone vibe young French people have become known for (which, if you think about it, isn't really something you can buy in clothing form).

"It was kind of a joke," explains Masaya Kuroki, who designs the line alongside Gildas Loaëc. "Because we are doing, in a way, French prep. It's a version of what it looks like if a Parisian goes to the Ivy League." Kuroki says he doesn't totally agree with the idea of French people "not trying" to look chic, but realizes it's something Americans associate with the French. "So we took it as humor."

Right now, Kuroki and Loaëc are evolving the brand from casual basics (often adorned with its signature cute fox logo) into something more fashion-forward while still keeping it wearable. "I don’t dare to say we are doing 'fashion fashion,' because it’s just normal clothes for everyday, but this season while I was watching [the presentation], with the models and people taking pictures and the flashes and the music, I was like, 'Oh this is fashion, oh the brand is becoming a fashion brand today!'"

Maison Kitsuné, which started as a record label about a decade ago, has grown slowly and organically. It now has three stores — one in Paris, one in Tokyo and one in New York inside the Nomad Hotel — and put on its first fashion show in Florence last January as an invited guest designer for Pitti W. This week marked a couple of milestones: It was the brand's debut on Net-a-Porter and its first time showing in New York, as part of Made Fashion Week. The co-founders hope to keep doing it. "Now that we've started, we can’t stop," said Kuroki. "Now we are part of the game, I can’t be against the game, we have to play."

But why New York? Last time we caught up with Loaëc, he lamented the difficulties of getting onto Paris's fashion calendar as a small brand, and Made was understandably a very attractive opportunity. "We’re still independent, so budget is pretty reduced," said Kuroki, adding that he and Loaëc also get inspired here.

It sounds like Kuroki and Loaëc don't intend to keep Maison Kitsuné the small, independent brand it is now, but they want to grow it slowly. Brands Kuroki admires include Ralph Lauren, Brooks Brothers, Comme des Garcons and, his favorite, Prada. "That's the direction we are taking in our way, not in [terms of] product, but philosophy... We don’t want to be the brand of 2012 or the brand of 2017," says Kuroki, adding that he wants Maison Kitsuné to be slightly removed from fashion trends, but not too far removed. "Each year, there are these shining stars, which is good, which we admire, but we prefer to keep a long run."

Like most brands that are able to last, Maison Kitsuné's clothes evoke a spirit and a lifestyle that you just kind of want to be a part of (at least I do). Click through the gallery to see what we mean.