Kitsuné: French Fashion, Music Brand Arrives in America

VIDEO: AudioFile: Label?s co-founder on music compilation, Maison Kitsunes NYC store.

French clothing line Maison Kitsuné recently celebrated the grand opening of its first U.S.  store in New York City. Located just north of Madison Square Park in Manhattan, the NoMad Hotel first approached the company two years ago about doing "something French, with a cache and chic," Maison Kitsuné co-founder Gildas Loaëc told AudioFile at the store's April launch.

Although based in Paris, Maison Kitsuné does a majority of its business in Asia, most notably Japan. Loaëc attributes the line's success among fashion-conscious Japanese consumers to the carefully sourced fabrics and attention to detail. It probably doesn't hurt  its marketing that the name Kitsuné is actually a Japanese word for fox and that Loaëc's business partner and clothing designer, Masaya Kuroki, is also Japanese. But perhaps what is most unusual about Kitsune is that it's not just a brand but, as Loaëc proclaims,  a "lifestyle proposal."

The Maison Kitsuné store at the NoMad Hotel in New York. (Maison Kitsuné)

Under the same name, Kitsuné the music label works with artists and musicians from around the world, remixing songs and curating dance compilations. Kitsuné has released singles and compilations with a bevy of big name acts in the dance, pop and electronic world, including Cut Copy, Fred Falke, Hot Chip, La Roux, Simian Mobile Disco, Phoenix and Yelle. (For more on Yelle, check out AudioFile's interview with Julie Budet.) In honor of Maison Kitsuné's arrival in the U.S., which also coincides with the company's 10-year anniversary, the label is releasing " Kitsuné America" - its first all-American compilation. The album includes  a mix of newcomers (Computer Magic, Selebrities, St. Lucia and Frances Rose), as well as more established acts like Childish Gambino.

Loaëc has always been a fan of music. He started out small in the industry, running his own record shop almost two decades ago. It was during that time that he first met Kuroki, who was a customer at the store, as well as two other regulars, Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter, better known as the electronic duo, Daft Punk.

Kitsuné co-founders Masaya Kuroki and Gildas Loaëc. (Maison Kitsuné)

"My store was not very successful," Loaëc said, recalling the circumstances that led him to eventually produce for Daft Punk. "So I was closing down, and we ended up leaving and [going to] Guy-Manuel's place. And then I was there when they were putting their first record out. And I was around, so I started to work with them."

Loaëc feels a deep sense of gratitude for having had that opportunity. He said, "I learned a lot of things about music business obviously, but [also] the importance of style and detail."

While Kitsuné puts out many singles and compilations, the label only has signed a handful of artists. Names on the roster range from the French band Housse de Racket to Northern Ireland's Two Door Cinima Club to Lower East Side kids Heartsrevolution. At the moment, Loaëc is excited about a band from London called Citizens!, who just finished recording in Scotland with producer Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand. Loaëc describes their debut album "Here We Are" as "very Pulp meets Bryan Ferry." He added, "It's really maybe more grown-up songs than we used to do with the label. But it's very, very good. And the singer is handsome. That kind of helps."

For Kitsuné, working with artists from all over seems to be a natural reflection of the ways in which musical influences travel. Referring to artists on "Kitsuné America," Loaëc spoke of Brooklyn-based Selebrities as being "very inspired by Manchester."  And of Portland's Poindexter, he said: "You think he's French the way he's making French style of song. It's kind of funny that the music is traveling and being kind of interpreted."

When asked about the popular wave that dance and electronic music seems to be riding on, Loaëc replied: "I've got a theory about that. I think that the rave music got too mainstream thanks to David Guetta. Which is French!" But unlike some critics (singer Santigold recently blasted pop idols for adopting the Euro-dance music sound), Kitsuné's co-founder doesn't see the trend of dance and electronic music on the radio as such a bad thing:

"I'm kind of positive thinking that big, mainstream success for dance music might be. I'm not sure, maybe I'm dreaming, maybe [it's] not happening, but-maybe bring[ing] more curious kids to the underground scene."

" Kitsuné America" is out May 22 on Kitsuné.

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