KITSUNE / FRONT ROW REBELS
“Kitsuné” is a Japanese word meaning “fox,” and legend has it that a kitsuné has the power to change its face and appearance, just like a chameleon.
With the combination of music and style, there is no doubt that Maison Kitsuné knows how to change its sound and fashion, according to its desire and inspiration. Founded by Gildas Loaëc and Masaya Kuroki in 2002, this French fashion and electronic music record label has established itself in remarkable time as an “It-brand” in France. Quality is not only tangible in their clothing, but in their choice of music as well. We owe to them fantastic bands such as Hot Chip, Phoenix, and most recently, The Aikiu, whose leader is none other than Alex Aikiu, a stylist working with the legendary Jean-Paul Goude. In March 2012, Kitsuné will open a store in New York City. Despite their overwhelming success, Gildas and Masaya remain two very down-to-earth people, who feel their accomplishments are due to the fact that their work is honest and always from the heart and soul.
How did you two meet each other?
Gildas: It has been a while now. I had a record shop in the first district of Paris, which was right next to a skate shop. Masaya was the owner of that shop, and that’s how we met.
How did you find the idea to create Maison Kitsuné?
G: My record shop wasn’t in good shape, so I closed it to work with a band called Daft Punk. I worked with them for a long time, and we went to Japan to produce the video Interstella 5555, with illustrator Leiji Matsumoto. That’s when I called Masaya, and brought him to Japan to be more involved with the band. In Japan, we found shops that were blending lifestyle and music; a little bit like what Colette is doing, a concept store with several aspects. We thought that maybe we could do the same by pushing the idea further, creating something more comprehensive. We wanted to respect the values of each field, without falling into the image that the music label is the accessory of the fashion line, or vice versa. We attracted a lot of attention to the record label with the selection of artists we sign. The same goes for the fashion line with the way the clothes are manufactured and distributed.
Why do you release compilations, as opposed to the artist’s album directly?
G: I think it’s a matter of being careful with what we do. Signing an artist’s album means “I’m able to release your album worldwide, to make you famous.” The label in the beginning was not very big, so we wanted to develop projects with several partners before being able to say to an artist, “OK, we are to ready to support your album, to produce it, and to release it.” In retrospect, the experience taught us things, like what kind of music has potential for a release with positive reactions from the public. We started to release singles from bands like Klaxons or Hot Chip, bands that were high in the English charts, and it proved to our partners that we were able to develop great projects. Then they let us release bands’ first albums, like Is Tropical and the French band, Housse de Racket.
Speaking of Hot Chip, what comes to mind when you see their success?
G: Well, I think it’s first and foremost because of their music that they’re quite popular. It’s true that we were there in the beginning for them, but it’s mainly due to the fact that their songs are good and they sound great on stage, which led to their success. Now that Kitsuné is bigger than before, if we, for instance, wanted to release Hot Chip’s new album, we would be more responsible of their success because we are bigger, beefier, and have more resources.
Do the Maison Kitsuné compilations reflect your own taste in music? Or are they “marketing” choices?
G: Yes, absolutely, they are 100% our taste in music. The idea of the compilations is in line with the desire to publish a magazine. Every six months we take a look at what’s going on right then in music, and try to provide an opportunity for new bands to reach a new public. We tend to do more pop songs, bands that can support their project on stage or maybe on the radio in the future, something more emotional, with melodies, in hopes that we can touch as many people possible.
What are you listening to these days? Share with us a playlist?
M: Citizens “True Romance,” which was recently released; it is produced by someone who worked with Franz Ferdinand. I really like Metronomy, too. We released their first singles, and their album is really great. I really like one song from Lana Del Rey as well.
If you had to choose a song, an artist, or record that represents your youth, what or whom would you choose?
G: The band Happy Mondays represents my teenage years pretty well. The band was so extreme for a time.
© Maison Kitsune
So, how do you create your fashion line?
Masaya: I am the one behind it. I take care of most things related to production. It’s like Gildas with the music. I pay attention to every little detail.
When you collaborate with other brands such as Petit Bateau, Pierre Hardy and Yoshida, do you submit an idea to them? Or, do you each bring your ideas and together, try to create one unique product?
M: It’s mostly an exchange of ideas and sharing of our knowledge. In general, when we collaborate with other brands, it’s for a Capsule collection. The process of sharing our savoir-faire and ideas is what interests us in collaborations.
G: Yeah, it’s first and foremost an exchange of ideas and an observation of how they work together. We can share with them some ideas that they have never thought of, and likewise.
The inspiration for your Fall/Winter 2011 collection came from Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain. How did this film inspire you?
M: I love the style of the western era. I love this movie and everything Ang Lee does. The idea was to bring this western style to the city. It was something that interested us, to transform this look into a wearable “city” style.
The fashion brand of Maison Kitsuné is highly respected in the industry. It’s trendy and stylistically ahead of the curve. And the quality is excellent. Can we expect to see one of your collections on a catwalk someday?
G: Yes, well… I don’t know if a catwalk will be an appropriate place, but we’re always going to be in a creative, artistic world, whether through music or fashion. The thing is, these industries are both governed by strict etiquettes. A record company is expected to make things a certain way, and so is a fashion brand. If we have to enter the fashion calendar to earn wider recognition, then yes we will do it. Unlike Kanye West, with the all due respect that I have for him, we don’t have the same resources to present our collection on a catwalk like he did, and we can’t afford all the great models and everything. But yes, one day, absolutely.
Your collections never follow the trends we see in magazines. Is it a personal choice to stand out from the crowd, or do you just follow your own inspiration?
G: Fashion is full of powerful groups like Louis Vuitton, Moët, and Hennessy, who spend millions on marketing and advertisement. It’s the same thing with brands like Sandro, Maje, and The Kooples. We are not in the same financial situation as them, and can’t be on the same level regarding trends and all the things that come with them. We don’t want to be their competitors, we are not interested in that. I recently read an interview of the designer Isabel Marant, saying that she had had enough of creating collections in emergencies, because it limited her creativity and the fact that she has to follow trends really prevents her to free her vision. We’re lucky enough to be apart from that system.
You talked about companies like The Kooples and Zadig & Voltaire. Both follow what you do and have a fashion line and music compilations. Just recently, The Kooples launched their own record label; how do you feel about this?
G: I don’t think The Kooples or Zadig & Voltaire 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.
Maison Kitsune store in New York
You’re working on a new store, opening in New York City in March 2012. Aren’t you afraid to disorient the brand?
G: No. Well, you know, it’s New York. We’re always impressed by the city, with its buildings and greatness. We’re almost exotic there because we’re from Paris, and we really take care of what we do; it will be more disorienting for us than for the brand itself.
What can we expect from you in the future, aside from music and fashion?
M: We’re full of ideas; our life inspires us. Of course, we would like to expand our activities by possibly opening a restaurant or a coffee shop in Hong Kong or elsewhere. It’s mostly a question of time, so for right now we’re doing music and fashion. We’ll see where that takes us later.