NEW YORK — Accessories designer Kate Spade is about to dramatically increase her presence in Japan.
Her company has signed a far-reaching manufacturing, distribution and licensing agreement with Itochu Fashion Systems and Sanei International.
The deal will ultimately embrace a total of 10 freestanding stores in Tokyo and Osaka and 29 in-store shops in Japan. The retail effort will begin with construction this fall of a Tokyo flagship. Size of the store is yet to be determined; it could be as small as 500 square feet or as large as 1,200 square feet.
In addition to the Kate Spade signature nylon satin handbags, Itochu plans to launch a variety of Spade-inspired accessories and apparel items, from belts, scarves and hosiery to pajamas, robes, sweater sets and cigarette pants. There will even be bath and home items.
Sanei International will handle wholesale showroom sales and product development.
“We’re in a global market,” said Andy Spade, president of Kate Spade. “We found a great partner who wanted what we wanted in terms of expanding Kate Spade internationally.”
Through the first three years, Spade projects net sales in Japan will total about $10 million.
Spade was the director at Chiat-Day ad agency until six months ago, when he moved to Kate Spade full time to oversee creative direction. More than four years ago, Kate and Andy Spade, who are married, founded the company as partners. The company has two other partners, sales and marketing director Elyce Cox and product development director Pamela Bell Simotas. In addition to its wholesale business, the firm opened a store in SoHo here last year.
The firm’s overall strategy, Spade said, is to position itself as a minibrand as opposed to a megabrand. He cited Paul Smith and Anna Sui as examples of minibrands.
“These companies are global companies, but they’re almost the alternative to the big brands,” he said. “We never want to be everywhere, we want to retain our personality.”
Kate Spade bags are already sold in Japan to Isetan, Mitsukoshi, Takishimaya, Barneys, Seibu and Hankyu.
If all goes well in Japan, the company hopes to launch the new products developed there in the U.S.

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