PARIS – Reflecting renewed interest in the buoyant Japanese market for Europe’s leather-goods players, Longchamp plans to inaugurate a tower in Tokyo this fall.
The French brand will move into the new building in the Omotesando neighborhood, which will house its biggest store in the country to date as well as a showroom and headquarters for its subsidiary there.
“It’s a superb project for which we’ve been hoping for several years,” said Longchamp chief executive officer Jean Cassegrain, the grandson of the house’s founder. “The difficulty was finding the right location, because demand for property in the area is very high, and new locations rarely come onto the market…. We had the opportunity to get involved here very early in the construction process and brand the building completely.”
As a result, Longchamp was able to give significant input into the building project, which will feature metallic paneled outer walls with a kinetic art theme that give different optical effects depending on the angle they are viewed from. The brand’s logo will be displayed at the top of the building.
Japan is Longchamp’s third market after France and the U.S., and the company has been present there since the Fifties. “We were one of the first French or Italian brands to enter the Japanese market,” Cassegrain explained. “Our business in Japan is performing quite well, and has consistently grown over the past two or three years, despite the maturity of the market for us and without growing our perimeter.”
Chanel and Vuitton staged major events in Japan last month, underscoring how tourist flows from China are perking up the business.
Longchamp currently has two smaller boutiques in Tokyo, in Omotesando and Ginza. The former will close to make way for the new flagship, set for a soft opening in September before being inaugurated in October. In total, Longchamp has around 60 sales points across Japan, having closed certain smaller doors in recent years.
“It’s the first time we will be able to showcase all our product categories correctly in Japan,” said Cassegrain. “We were lacking a flagship that allowed us to show off our complete vision, to be an ambassador for the brand.”
The store itself will cover around 3,500 square feet over three floors of the building. The basement is set to house the brand’s men’s collections, a growing area of focus, as well as luggage. It will have a similar ambience to Longchamp’s new men’s store in Paris, which opened last fall. “Until now, these segments have been underexploited in Japan because we didn’t have enough space,” said Cassegrain.
The street level will house bags, women’s ready-to-wear and shoes – the latter two being further areas that Cassegrain considers “under-represented” in the brand’s business in Japan – and upstairs will be more bags, including the brand’s signature Pliage models, as well as a personalization workshop for these. “Our personalized products, which we launched in 2003, have been particularly successful in Japan,” Cassegrain explained.
The central staircase area will bring the space together and is set to feature the work of an as-yet-unnamed artist, which is intended to be emblematic of the store itself, Cassegrain said. Longchamp has commissioned work from various artists to be displayed in its flagships in recent years.