TOKYO — Costume National has opened a new complex here featuring a store, an art gallery and cafe. And the house did so in a swift manner — considering a fairly unique set of circumstances.
Designer Ennio Capasa said the construction on the building came together in as few as six months.
“It was an incredible rush, also because after the earthquake, everything was stopped here. We pushed to do it,” Capasa, decked out in a slim suit and polka-dotted tie, said at the opening party Wednesday night. “We actually decided to do this project when everything was quiet [in Japan] because we wanted to show a bit of courage in this sense.”
Costume National’s new home is well hidden in the backstreets of the trendy Aoyama neighborhood. Hiroaki Mikawa, Costume National’s Japan president, said the out-of-the-way location fits in with brand’s goal of winning over artsy consumers seeking something different. He estimated that Costume National has invested about 3 billion yen, or about $39 million, in the project, which houses the brand’s first freestanding store in Japan.
The art gallery space currently houses a small retrospective of the brand’s pieces but it will come to house a range of different exhibitions and events. A cafe featuring a “vertical garden” by artist Patrick Blanc and an outdoor courtyard gives visitors another reason to linger.
The Aoyama complex is the first of a series of new openings and initiatives the brand has in the pipeline for Asia. Next year, the company plans to open two stores in Hong Kong and Capasa said he’s looking to open additional sales points in Mainland China. Last year, a Japanese-Chinese investment vehicle bought a minority stake in Costume National with an aim to grow the business in Asia. The brand is preparing to launch e-commerce in Japan and the rest of Asia at the end of next year.
Capasa said he’s rather optimistic that Japan’s economy will bounce back as the country rebuilds the quake-ravaged northeastern part of the country and his company considers the Aoyama store to be a significant statement for the brand in the region.
“Tokyo is a bit of a reference point for all of Asia. It’s kind of like the New York of Asia,” he said.
Just a short walk away, Moncler feted its new Tokyo flagship in a space formerly occupied by D&G. The store, which resembles Moncler’s SoHo outpost in New York with high ceilings and dark decor, is the brand’s first freestanding unit in Japan.
Remo Ruffini, Moncler’s chairman and creative director, said the aftermath of the March earthquake had relatively little impact on the brand’s business in Japan since the spring-summer season is not as important as the fall-winter season for the outerwear-focused brand.
He noted jokingly that Tokyo’s sticky late summer climate isn’t exactly conducive to shopping for puffy winter coats.
“With the heat today, I don’t know, but let’s wait and see,” he said.