Stripe International Invests in Maison Kitsune

Japanese apparel and consumer products company Stripe International has taken a minority stake in Maison Kitsuné, the Parisian fashion brand and music label.

The investment, the amount of which wasn’t disclosed, will be used to fund Maison Kitsuné’s brick-and-mortar expansion, improve operations and further develop e-commerce.

In addition, Maison Kitsuné plans to expand its network of wholesale partnerships through North America, Europe and Asia.

Maison Kitsuné was created in Paris in 2002 by Gildas Loaëc, a former manager of the French electronic music duo Daft Punk, and Masaya Kuroki, an architect.

Maison Kitsuné will remain independently controlled and operated by its executive team, led by Loaëc and Kuroki, and jointly managed in Japan with Jun Co.

Stripe International executives will join the Maison Kitsuné board and serve as a strategic partner, using its global market knowledge and assets to fuel growth in accordance with the founders’ creative direction.

“A major reason for Stripe’s investment is our belief in Maison Kitsuné’s longevity — the brand Gildas and Masaya have built evokes a spirit and lifestyle that extends beyond fashion to music, cafés, art and architecture,” said Yasuharu Ishikawa, president and chief executive officer of Stripe. “We look forward to leveraging our experience, know-how and network from managing the Thom Browne business to amplify Maison Kitsuné’s strong momentum. We see clear opportunities to support product-quality enhancements, supply-chain efficiencies and development in Asia, particularly China.”

Based in Okayama, Stripe manages brands including Earth, Music & Ecology, E-Hyphen World Gallery, Green Parks and Seven Days Sunday. Stripe, formerly the Cross Co., acquired 67 percent of Thom Browne in 2009 and last March sold it to Sandbridge Capital.

Loaëc said he started Maison Kitsuné with 7,000 euros (equal to about $8,500 today) “back in the day. This past year, we were in a situation where the growth of the company was getting to be a cash flow issue. We also felt we weren’t getting enough brand awareness.”

After meeting with different companies in France and the U.S., Loaëc said the connection with Stripe “felt natural and not forced. We got the chance to meet the founder and owner of Stripe. We got along. He was already a fan of Maison Kitsuné and felt he was in a position to help further develop the brand.”

Stripe brings to the partnership different expertise and know-how in terms of networking, Loaëc said, adding that the investment will help Maison Kitsuné become a more modern company in France. “It will make the execution of the brand more efficient in terms of the supply chain and the technical things like logistics and sourcing that are boring and you don’t see, but make the foundation of the brand,” he added. “This allows us to have the capacity to handle more [orders].”

Maison Kitsuné, which develops most of the fabrics for its collections in Japan, manufactures 80 percent of its products in Europe, mainly in Italy and Portugal, with some in Eastern Europe. About 80 percent of the brand’s business is done in Asia.

Loaëc said the company will open a second store in Hong Kong next year and there are plans to open a unit in Seoul. “Shoppers coming from Korea are the second biggest customer based for our Web store,” he said. “Taiwan is very much in the middle between Hong Kong and Japan, so it’s important. And we want to open a store in London, which is an important international city.”

Maison Kitsuné in 2012 opened its first U.S. outpost, a 1,200-square-foot unit at 1170 Broadway and 28th Street in the NoMad Hotel. Asked if the brand would open more stores in the U.S., Loaëc said, “We see America more as an echo chamber. We’ll try to have more parties and more activities around the brand. Everyone in the world is looking at what’s going on in New York.”

Loaëc revealed that Maison Kitsuné is looking at Los Angeles as a new market and in December will open a pop-up shop in Miami in collaboration with Design Miami and unveil another pop-up at The Webster.

E-commerce will get attention as a result of the Stripe investment. “It’s our number-one store and we want to push it out to more customers and make it more enjoyable,” Loaëc said. “So far, we have e-commerce everywhere in the world out of France. We want dedicated e-commerce operations in America and [possibly] Hong Kong. It’s a logistics issue.”

More wholesale distribution is another facet of the expansion plan. Maison Kitsuné recently opened a shop-in-shop at Galeries Lafayette and Le Bon Marché in Paris, and there’s a corner at Isetan in Tokyo.

Loaëc said the company has already begun improving operations, developing the collection and introducing more styles. Maison Kitsuné sells ready-to-wear for men and women, accessories and is starting to produce men’s and women’s shoes. The denim category is seen as a big opportunity.

There’s also Café Kitsuné, which Loaëc calls “a little café with lots of potential. We’ll be developing and pushing it further.” With locations in Paris and Tokyo, the café “has a very strong following and we’ve gotten demand to open in Singapore, Bangkok, Taiwan, Bali and Japan.”