Sometime in the mid ‘90s, on a little rue behind the Musée Louvre, a 19-year-old music buff named Gildas Loaec set up a vinyl record shop. All the club DJs of the time were passing through, including a pair of long-haired, Fred Perry-clad teenagers named Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter. They all became fast friends and when the record shop went under, Gildas joined the DJ duo – who you know today as Daft Punk – and helped them to become France’s biggest musical export since the Can-Can.
If you know Maison Kitsuné, then you might already know this tale. It’s one of those classic origin stories that becomes part of a brand’s mythology. Established in 2002 by Gildas and his partner Masaya Kuroki, Kitsuné has established itself as equal parts music label (Hot Chip, Two Door Cinema Club, Digitalism) and cult fashion purveyor with stores in Paris, Tokyo, New York, and Hong Kong coming in February.
Masaya Kuroki & Gildas Loaec
It hardly seems noteworthy that a company would find multi-platform success in an age where everyone’s dabbling – fashion houses reaching into music, musicians creating fashion lines. What’s remarkable about Kitsuné is that they had the foresight 12 years ago to establish themselves as a two-pronged enterprise (hence, the fox as a logo, which according to Japanese lore can change its shape). It’s even more remarkable that they’ve managed to grow each side of the business in equal stride.
“We really are complementary. I am kind of guiding the direction for developing the company and handling the A&R side, and Masaya is handling the clothing line aesthetic,” Gildas explained via email. “We both run the company as creative directors,” Masaya added. “We are pretty much synchronized on everything from styles to products.”
The fashion and music industries have long been simpatico. Pop stars look to designers to hone their vibe and fashion houses look to musicians to lend them swagger and authenticity. Kitsuné attacks from both sides.
Kitsuné's 2012 look book shot at The Standard, Hollywood
In an interview with The GROUND Magazine, Gildas explains the difference between Kitsuné and other fashion brands who have added music labels to their rosters: “I don’t think they can do what we do, no matter how much energy they put into it. To them, it’s all about appearance. I doubt they’re in a position where they can really develop a project with an artist, promote their record, choose where to perform for the first time, and how their video will look. It’s about having a vision with the artist. In a certain way, owning a record label is like becoming an artistic director. Our record label is not an accessory like theirs.”
Over on the fashion side of the business, this level of intense detail manifests in the relentless refinement of the preppy Parisian uniform. The name of their S/S 2015 collection, which they are presenting this fall at The Standard, High Line is “Effortless French” – a feat no doubt, considering there is not much effortless about the French. But perhaps therein lies the secret: that which appears simple and snappy – be it a cardigan or a compilation – is always a deception in relation to the backbreaking work it takes to create. A deception, clearly, this fox has mastered.
Photos by James Stone.