As quirky legwear makes its foray into high fashion, the Japanese brand Tabio is invading high street in Europe.
The Osaka-based maker of quirky socks and tights runs two flagships in Paris and two in London, and has operations in each of those cities. Germany and Italy are next on the brand’s radar.
“We are getting many requests from the U.S. as well,” said Manuella Sorin, Tabio’s operations manager in Paris, “but we need to adapt the sizes first. Germans and Americans are really tall, and we’re not quite ready yet.”
Sorin said the brand is moving away from department stores and focusing more on monobrand expansion to comply with “the Japanese philosophy of delivering a product with perfect service.”
That’s also the reason why in London, Tabio is looking for smaller high-street locations to mirror the Paris venues.
“We realized that smaller boutiques with a quiet atmosphere are better for business,” said Sorin. “Customers otherwise quickly become overwhelmed with the selection.”
The Paris doors stock approximately 200 designs; 100 new ones are added every season. Among the brand’s bestsellers are a line of glittery Lurex socks in a broad range of colors retailing for 14 euros a pair, or $18.50 at current exchange, of which the brand sells 1,500 items a year, as well as the Irmack vintage socks, which go for 12 euros, or $15.80.
Net sales in France jumped 25 percent from 800,000 euros, or $1.06 million, in 2010, to 1 million euros, or $1.29 million, in 2012, while global net sales stood at 15.3 billion yen, or $191.25 million, in 2012.
Sorin attributed the brand’s success to a growing interest in socks.
“Tights are tights, they have always been popular, but the socks business really picked up as fashion designers started using our items in their fashion shows. John Galliano was the first one to do so,” said Sorin, adding that Tabio’s design team works closely with fashion houses to pick up on trends, styles and colors. “The fact that mixing heels with a pair of socks became so trendy has really helped us.”
There are also plans to expand Tabio’s online retail operations in Europe, which for now mainly focus on France and the U.K.