KENZO STORE AIMS TO BUILD U.S. PRESENCE
Byline: Janet Ozzard
NEW YORK — Kenzo is back on Madison Avenue.
The Japanese-born, Paris-dwelling designer was visiting New York this week for the gala opening of his new boutique at 805 Madison Ave., between 67th and 68th Streets. For seven years, a licensed Kenzo boutique on Madison Avenue near 70th Street was a fixture of the high-end shopping strip, but that store closed in 1989 when the lease expired.
But with the new store, Kenzo Takada is hoping to get some increased exposure for his name. While his recent licensing deal with Bonaventure for the secondary Kenzo Studio line is going well, it’s his designer-price goods that the new store will promote — along with the four fragrances, the shoes, the accessories and the men’s wear line.
“We would have brought the home furnishings, but there just wasn’t space to display them,” said Richard Simonin, Kenzo’s president, in an interview at The Mark hotel here during Kenzo’s visit.
Coming back to America is a crucial business move for Kenzo, who, said Simonin, is fairly well saturated in France and Japan — its two biggest markets. Although Kenzo’s worldwide business is very healthy, he’s had a small presence in the U.S.
The designer and Simonin said that worldwide, the apparel sales will be about $150 million this year, while the fragrances will hit about $100 million. Kenzo sold his business to LVMH Mot Hennessy Louis Vuitton in 1993 for about $100 million.
Based on initial response to the two-level, 2,000-square-foot store, which is filled with Kenzo’s brightly colored suits and accessories, consumers are welcoming the designer back with open arms and wallets.
Store manager Edouard de Ferreira-Goncalve said the store did about $100,000 in sales during the first week, with tailored red wool suits selling out.
“We keep having to change the window display because we’re selling out of things,” he said.
The grand opening is scheduled for Tuesday night, with Kenzo’s favorite Paris florist, Marianne Robic, flying in to decorate.
Simonin said he wasn’t sure about opening other Kenzo boutiques in the States, and declined to give a first-year projection.
“In New York, you have to endure,” he said. “You may have a booming, wonderful business, but you have to prove your commitment and prove that you have the product. Yes, we are doing very well right now, but who knows in four months or four years?
We want to see how it goes before we expand. We’re used to running boutiques outside the country now, and we feel New York is on an upswing again. The store here is very visible, very light and open, not like the last store.”
“I started in Paris, and I love Paris, but it’s not like it was before,” said Kenzo, who has lived in his adopted city for 25 years. “It’s still a center of fashion, but New York, Milan, Tokyo also have their major talents.”
The Madison Avenue boutique is modeled after Kenzo’s stores in Paris, with light wood and red accents on the first floor for the women’s collections and cooler blue gray and darker wood tones on the second floor, which houses the men’s line.
But the signature store is just one of the designer’s moves to reestablish his U.S. presence.
He’s launched a small-scale print ad campaign in such magazines as Marie Claire and Harper’s Bazaar this fall and is visiting some stores promoting Kenzo Studio.
That line is produced through a licensing agreement signed earlier this year with the Bonaventure Group here. While Kenzo develops the line’s fashion direction, Studio is sold only in the U.S. and his retail stores in China.
Bonaventure is a 25-year-old, Hong Kong-based, privately owned company that manufactures women’s sportswear for the U.S. market. It also holds a license to make Kenzo Studio jeans line for spring 1996.
As reported, Kenzo Studio is projected to do about $20 million in first-year volume.
Kenzo said he doesn’t think there is a problem with a Japanese designer creating clothes for American women from a Paris office.
“French women, Japanese women, American women all dress pretty much in the same manner,” he said. “Here one proposes a whole outfit, while a French woman might pick and choose and mix things more. Americans have an outfit for work and a different outfit for after work. But perhaps when [Americans] get more confident, they will change.”