By  on November 23, 2004

You Don’t Say, Sai So to Add Scent

BERLIN — The first Sai So fragrance, to be bottled in a porcelain flacon from Fürstenberger China, is in development, as is an edition of handprinted Sai So wallpaper. There are two Sai So Sound CDs, Sai So frankincense — not to mention Sai So bed throws, pillows, lamps, wall hangings, belts, sandals, wallets, jackets, tops, dresses, skirts, pants and coats.

“It’s not fashion or style. It’s a world,” said the company’s owner, Martin Brem. And it was as “The World of Sai So, exclusively for Harrods” that Brem’s one-of-a-kind universe was presented in the London department store earlier this month.

The name Sai So, which in Japanese means “to reconstruct” or “to put together again,” essentially says it all. Brem’s wife, Ursula, a graphic artist with a passion for antique kimonos, decided to make a scarf one day from a damaged kimono in her collection. People on the streets of London, where the Brems lived, kept asking where she bought it, and a small business was born in the late Nineties, making and selling scarves out of kimonos.

But what to call it? Brem — at that time vice president of international marketing for Sony Music in Europe — was working on a project called Sai So with the Japanese DJ Crush, who mixed Japanese Kodo drums into club music. Brem liked the sound of Sai So, but its meaning was even better. Reconstructing was precisely what his wife was doing with the scarves, which soon found their way onto the shelves of Harvey Nichols and Neiman Marcus.

Brem was slated to take over Sony Music’s German division in Berlin, and the Brems packed their bags — including 72 boxes containing almost 1,000 silk kimonos. But then Ursula suddenly died of an aneurysm on her husband’s birthday in 2001 and Brem immediately took a sabbatical to care for his two small boys. During that leave, Berlin conceptual retailer Andreas Murkudis asked Brem for some scarves for his first shop happening. Here, Brem met the designers Katja Allrich and Bettina Kredler who were “most enthusiastic when they heard there were 72 boxes full of old silk,” Brem recalled. The boxes with their 926 kimonos and assorted remnants came out of storage.The collection has been “out of the cupboard and into the world” since December 2002. Quartier 206 Departmentstore director Josef Volk visited the Sai So atelier in Kreuzberg and quickly placed those first skirts and tops in a window of the exclusive Berlin emporium. Much has changed since then.

Brem remarried, and his second wife, the film producer Gabriela Bacher, is instrumental in Sai So’s administration and logistics. “It’s not necessarily a disadvantage for a music and a film executive to get into a different business,” Brem said. “We both come from industries that work with excitement and vision, and it gives us a fresh and different approach.” Sai So began exhibiting at Tranoi in Paris, White in Milan and Premium in Berlin. And this year, Andreas Jeenicke, a Strenesse veteran, took over the design helm, shaping Sai So apparel into a compact and focused collection.

The company’s turnover, estimated at about 500,000 euros, or $635,000 at current exchange rates, has increased 400 percent in the last year. In addition to Harrods, key accounts include Quartier 206 Departmentstore, A Propos in Cologne, Marco Hops in Hamburg, Mändler in Munich, Swarovski’s Donum in Salzburg, Germany, Takashiyama in New York, plus Al Ostoura in Kuwait. Brem just signed Four Marketing to distribute Sai So in the U.K., “but our next step is actually America,” Brem stated. “Takashiyama is a great start, but we need to enter the West Coast. It’s our natural home.” Negotiations are under way with an American agent, who is expected to be on board by January.

Strategically, a collection using original kimonos can only be couture-like, he suggested. “But to survive, we need to do products that don’t use kimonos, like wall coverings, or the accessories which require less original fabric. The collection as I see it will be more and more of a limited edition.”

The fragrance was developed by Julius Eulberg, who also created fragrances for Kirna Zabête, among other beauty projects. The launch is planned for February and will include an 80-ml. eau de parfum, a 30-ml. perfume oil, a candle and an ambience ball. Prices have not been set, “but it won’t be cheap,” Brem quipped.In addition to Sai So’s existing fashion doors, Brem expects to place the range in select, independent perfumeries. He said has also expressed interest in offering Sai So scents.

Any thoughts of Brem going back to his first love — music — have been set aside. The Harrods showcase, successes at Tranoi, the fact that retailers from last season have reordered, “all those facts made me decide OK, forget the music industry. This isn’t just an exercise in mourning,” Brem stated. “Maybe it was in the beginning, but not now. There’s so much emotion in it — but you need that in a product nowadays.”

NPD Acquires Parkod Units

NEW YORK — The NPD Group of Port Washington, N.Y., has acquired control of Parkod France and Parkod Europe, which will bolster the position of NPD on the Continent. Claude Charbit, former executive vice president for European operations of Information Resources Inc., has been named Parkod’s chairman.

Charbit noted in a statement, “Parkod’s many assets complement NPD BeautyTrends’ myriad informational offerings. We look forward to providing expanded information services to perfume retailers and manufacturers in France and across Europe.”

He added that NPD’s acquisition of Parkod will reinforce and accelerate the company’s strategic development within the selective perfumery sector — both in France and internationally. Parkod’s pioneering classification of products in the selective perfumery sector — and its advanced information systems for in-store tracking — will be leveraged within NPD’s BeautyTrends’ service, which measures the selective perfumery market.

“In countries where the level of in-store computerization is weak and where product codification systems are not always well structured,” Charbit said, “NPD — in partnership with the European and National Retailer Federations and large national and international chains or independent groups — will now bring the necessary means to secure the quality of collected data files and ensure their consistency across Europe.”

— Pete Born

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