Maison Kitsuné is pushing upwards – north to Canada, that is. The Franco-Japanese brand has opened its first standalone store in the Canadian market with a 2,500-square-foot location in Vancouver.
Located at 157-159 Water Street in the historic Gastown District, the opening also marks the first Canadian location of Café Kitsune, with shop and café located side-by-side.
Both the café and boutique were designed by Kitsuné cofounder Masaya Kuroki, who took inspiration from midcentury Vancouver lakeside houses with oakwood paneling, flourishes of raw concrete and orange leather detailing.
Kitsuné chief executive officer for the Americas, Vinod Kasturi, said that the market made sense, “from a qualitative and quantitative standpoint. We have interesting data points on the events side, we have been throwing parties in Canada for over a decade. We have roots there and seeing kids and adults turn out to our club nights in Vancouver and Toronto let us develop a strong brand there, plus we have wholesale relationships in major [Canadian] cities.”
Vancouver was particularly appealing, as it allows for a certain crossover with Kitsuné’s strong hold in the Asia-Pacific market. “We have quite a presence in Tokyo, Seoul and mainland China. Vancouver has more direct flights to mainland China than any other city in North America and Europe. It’s really translated to the local retail sector, where you see a strong luxury goods market and some of the highest-performing locations for Nordstrom, Louis Vuitton and Celine,” Kasturi said.
“I think the economy of the local Canadian dollar incentivizes foreigners to spend there and it pairs with really unique consumer behaviors that have produced interesting brands like Aritzia, Arc’teryx and Lululemon,” he added.
Kitsuné partnered with Chip Wilson’s real estate investment firm Low Tide Properties to find its location. The building it has settled in, a rehabilitated historic building, has some major upstairs neighbors, including Vancouver’s Microsoft headquarters.
This is a lucky boon for the new Café Kitsuné, which will bring natural wines, coffee and sake service to a neighborhood regarded for its restaurant scene and nightlife. Lunch service and discounts for locals will be available as well, with a menu devised by head chef Lina Caschetto and wine and sake director Layla Frances-Smith.
“Gastown is a cool spot in Vancouver with a lot of restaurants and independent designers, and with most locations we like finding an iconic section of town that speaks to local architecture. Here there are cobblestone streets and heritage Victorian architecture. It’s a walkable city, too, so we are still in proximity to the luxury stretch. They told us that the major office tenant was Microsoft in the floors above and they were looking for a hospitality provider and we felt like it was the perfect opportunity,” Kasturi said.