“We are considerate of the codes in street fashion, high fashion and couture. It’s important to understand the principles of your brand, but not let those fundamentals restrain you from trying new ventures” say Gildas Lorec who wore a navy pullover with an “Hongkonggais” emblem across its center. Masaya Kuroki — the other half of Maison Kitsuné — nodded in agreement to his partner’s description of the brand’s work ethics.
Coinciding with recent Art Basel Hong Kong festivities, Kitsuné unveiled a pop-up project dubbed Maison Kitsuné Gallery in the city’s shopping district, Causeway Bay. Little was given away about what the pop-up entailed. The only hint was a vibrant flyer depicting a wonder world filled with a raunchy melange of eyes, boats, stars and Andre Saravia’s “MR. A” caricature. The flyer, much like a ticket, invited attendees to Kitsuné’s latest sphere, a pop-up space that offered locals a taste of Kitsuné before the opening of its official Hong Kong flagship store in June. We caught up with Masaya and Gildas — ahead of a live in-store painting session from Andre — to learn more about the brand’s latest footing in Asia, Kitsuné’s America mixtape series, and the recipe to running a music and fashion label under one mainstay.
“Some street elements in our collection can also be credited to Hong Kong and Tokyo’s street styles, which is much more evident than Paris.”
Your latest pop-up gallery shows Kitsuné‘s expansion into the Asian market. What is it about the Asian demographic that appeals to you?
Gildas: We wanted to provide a Maison Kitsuné experience in light of Art Basel, and offer the public a taste of the brand before the opening of the main flagship in June.
Kitsuné is already stocked in various retailers in Hong Kong such a Lane Crawford and Kapok. What does this pop-up provide that isn’t available elsewhere?
Gildas: The pop-up is a bigger project. It allows people to enter the Maison Kitsuné world, experience the artwork that we’re into, the music, and of course the apparel. We will also have a wider selection of clothing on offer with a few exclusives.
Masaya: Of course we work very well with the stores mentioned, but this time we have our own street and our own door. It’s our creative space and we will later transform it into a gallery. For now, it serves as a retail store.
Will you be offering a range of exclusive products catering specifically to your new space?
Masaya: Yes, we have a number of souvenir pieces including a T-Shirt, sweater and pullover with “Hongkongais” printed on them. The phrase means “citizen of Hong Kong.”
Having worked with a number of artists, why have you tapped Andre Saravia to decorate the interior?
Gildas: We have been collaborating with Andre for a few years. We even had an exhibition together with him last summer in our Tokyo store called “Dream Concerts,” where Andre made poster renditions of the best lineup for faux shows. Andre is going to do some live painting at the opening. We have a few special-edition “Dream Concerts” posters signed by Andre available at the pop-up too.
Kitsuné has a handful of stores around the world (four in Paris, two in Tokyo, one in New York). How do you give each store its identity while keeping the core Kitsuné theme?
Masaya: Each store has its own soul. We try to share our viewpoints on the neighborhoods where the stores are situated in through their interior designs. For Hong Kong, we are going to have Chinese antiques in the store. In New York, our next space will be in the Lower East Side so that store will uphold hints of raw New York characteristics. Similarly, Tokyo has a Japanese touch. Yet, the brand is still Parisian and it’s always going to be French with an emphasis on quality.
“The music label has its own life and the fashion label has its own life. Both are great passions of ours, but they both exist independently.”
Masaya, you hail from Japan but grew up in France. Do you ever bring the influence of your Japanese roots on board when directing Kitsune?
Masaya: I don’t feel like I bring an especially Japanese essence to Kitsuné. We don’t really work that way. As I grew up in Paris, it is more of a French, Parisian brand.
Gildas: With that said, our aesthetic draws influence from more than just France. We have traveled extensively in Asia and admire Tokyo’s creative culture. Some of the street elements in our collection can also be credited to Hong Kong and Tokyo’s street styles, which is much more evident than Paris. We can now navigate through Maison Kitsuné’s history, and pinpoint chapters that were more chic, sporty or street. This is a unique way to think of a French brand. We are targeting younger kids; constantly distributing to new countries and expanding to the new territories.
As for the record label, you guys recently unveiled the America mixtape series. What prompted your decision to follow this direction? How does it align with values and direction of the brand?
Gildas: Since we’re opened a store in New York, we’re having a bit of fun there, tapping into the U.S. crowd. It’s always been part of the Kitsuné process to interact with artists everywhere we go. We’ve met some great musicians and artists via our trips to the States; America is just an ode to our experiences. I have just finished Kitsuné America 4 and we’re discovering a soulful sound that is slightly more urban and street. We have ‘Americanized’ ourselves in this project. The idea behind the Kitsuné records is to never stick to one genre and to remain as open as possible.
What is the criteria needed to be signed to the Kitsuné record label?
Gildas: There are no defined rules, but we do look at the aesthetic and originality to a song, and whether it has a pop factor. We stay curious and keep a youthful spirit, and keep our ears to the ground for new and interesting sounds.
Many fashion brands have started their own record labels and vice versa, but have not succeeded as well as that of Kitsuné. How do you strike the right balance to ensure success on both fronts?
Masaya: The music label has its own life and the fashion label has its own life. Both are great passions of ours, but they both exist independently.
Gildas: We keep an open mind to experiment but keep in mind what’s appealing to the masses. We are considerate of the codes in street fashion, high fashion and couture. It’s important to understand the principles of your brand, but not let those fundamentals restrain you from trying new ventures.
What is your favorite release under the Kitsuné record label to sing at karaoke?
Gildas: “Something Good Can Work” by Two Door Cinema Club on Kitsune Maison Kitsuné Compilation 1.
Masaya: This song always gets people singing.