Baroque Japan Ltd. Co. has taken the first steps toward establishing two of its brands in the U.S. and ultimately, it hopes, the world.
The company’s blueprint for entering new countries is establishing operating companies in each region. Baroque HK Ltd. in 2007 was launched prior to the entrance to Hong Kong and Baroque Shanghai Ltd. in 2009.
Similarly, the Japanese entity in April created Baroque USA Ltd. as a vehicle for its U.S. expansion. Two brands were chosen for the initial foray. Moussy, premium Japanese denim, recently opened its first U.S. store at 474 Broome Street in Manhattan’s SoHo, while sister brand Enfold, a women’s ready-to-wear collection designed by Mizuki Ueda and focused on quality materials and precise tailoring, unveiled its inaugural unit at 411 Bleecker Street.
The stores were designed by Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, an architecture firm known for its work for Apple and Uniqlo. The 2,000-square-foot Moussy features a 29-foot long denim wall displaying more than 26 styles in different cuts and washes, including one-off styles. Enfold’s 950-square-foot unit has plants such as cacti and calathea, and bare branches and wood stumps interspersed among the clothing and accessories.
“Exploring new global markets has been our plan for continuing Baroque’s growth and success,” said Hiroyuki Murai, president of Baroque USA. “The New York store openings are the first step toward expanding out of Asia with standalone retail. The two flagships will be Baroque’s main points of focus, allowing us time to absorb and explore the U.S. retail market. Our U.S. operations will act as an information hub for entering additional markets.
“That being said, Moussy, which is one of Baroque’s core brands, operates more than 50 doors in Japan, and opened more than 100 doors in China in a span of five years. If North America has a positive profit outlook, we may expand similarly.”
Murai said Baroque’s experience in China of quickly building a business platform that caters to 30 cities with varying climates and dialects, could be a template for U.S. expansion. “Our success shows that Baroque has the flexibility and agility to adapt to new markets with different climates, cultures and languages,” he explained.
Baroque, which had sales of 68.77 billion yen, or $644.3 million at current exchange for the year ending Jan. 31, 2016, is taking a two-pronged approach to Moussy and Enfold’s development. In addition to company-owned stores, Baroque is working to establish a wholesale presence for the brands. Moussy is sold in more than 45 specialty stores across the U.S., Enfold is sold at more than 50 locations worldwide, including Boontheshop in Seoul; Harvey Nichols, Hong Kong, and Barneys New York units in Japan. Baroque will target similar retailers in the U.S., Murai said.
Launched in 2000, Baroque prides itself on being on the leading edge of fashion. “In Japan, Baroque is viewed not only as a fashion company but also as a trendsetter,” Murai said. “In 2000, we were at the forefront of the ‘gyaru’ movement, which became a subculture that heavily influenced the Japanese fashion economy.”
Store employees are involved in the planning process for new collections. “Our shop staff is the closest to and most attuned to what our customers want,” Murai said. “In this way, we reflect customers’ needs in our products. Our planning and production from the customers’ perspective has won us the kind of support where we can release high-quality products at affordable prices at the right times.”
Store staff attend training sessions and are taught to be cognizant of consumers’ desires. “Every staff member must develop an awareness of, and fulfill his or her professional responsibility to help achieve our grand goal of launching Baroque on the world stage as a leading Japanese fashion brand. [Baroque] will also raise every staff member’s awareness of compliance,” the company said.
One of Baroque’s basic tenets involves optimizing production systems to reduce costs, streamline distribution and shorten lead times, while continuing to release signature high-quality products at affordable prices. “After 2010, we began implementing supply chain management similar to that of Toyota and Canon, which led us to become an industry leader with a highly profitable business model.”
Baroque’s stable of brands includes offshoots such as Black by Moussy and Azul by Moussy. There’s also Rodeo Crowns, a label that takes its cues from “American youth culture” such as Andy Warhol’s pop icon Marilyn Monroe silk screen, zines and military jackets; Sly, which bills itself as the new sexy; Rienda, lingerie; Avan Lily, trendy items; Lilidia, feminine designs such as ladylike handbags and skirts with large bow ties, and Staccato, footwear, among other concepts.
“While we believe all of our brands have big potential in the U.S.,” Murai said. “We’ll consider their launch after assessing how Moussy and Enfold are received by the U.S. customer.”
Murai said Europe is in Baroque’s sites, but no immediate launch is planned. “We have considered entering the European market, but it would be a challenge with the current economy,” he said. “We’re interested in South America and South Asia, where we see potential.”