NEW YORK — Kappa is the latest European sports lifestyle brand to step up its presence in the American market.
Alliance Worldwide, the company owned by New York fashion investors Bruce and Norman Weisfeld, is now selling men’s and women’s Kappa products in the U.S. as part of a new distribution deal with the brand’s owners, BasicNet of Turin, Italy. Men’s wear was launched this spring at retail, and women’s will begin rolling out for late fall and holiday, with a larger launch planned for spring 2006.
“Kappa has a strong heritage and we think the U.S. should be the lead country for this brand,” said Bruce Weisfeld, whose company also has investments in Heatherette, Fubu, Coogi and Willie Esco and other brands. “We think women’s alone could be a $50 million business in five years.”
The business is operating in Manhattan in the Empire State Building under the name Kappa USA.
The company’s women’s offerings cover performance and lifestyle looks, including products for yoga, running and fitness activities. Many of the items come in bold hues such as green and purple, and the performance styles have features such as mesh paneling and wicking properties to keep the wearer warm and dry.
The lifestyle looks include brushed polyester track jackets with Kappa’s distinctive logo featuring a man and a woman seated back to back, as well as fitted T-shirts, tank tops and miniskirts. The collection sold here is produced in Italy and is the same as the one sold around the world, although under the terms of the deal, Kappa USA has the ability to tweak the styling for the American market. In addition to sportswear, a selection of women’s handbags and footwear will begin rolling out for fall.
Wholesale prices range from about $12 to $20 for T-shirts, $25 to $50 for jackets, $25 to $40 for pants and $15 to $20 for shorts, said Frank Battle, Kappa USA’s director of apparel.
The men’s collection has been picked up by Bloomingdale’s, as well as specialty chains such as Pulse in Manhattan and Sportie L.A. in Los Angeles. Battle said the company is initially targeting higher-tier department stores and boutiques for the women’s merchandise.
With its sporty lifestyle direction, Kappa joins a crowd that includes brands like Puma, Le Tigre, Penguin, Fred Perry and Hummel, as well as Fila and Lacoste. This segment of the business has grown quickly in recent years as people seek out retro brands.
Founded in 1916, Kappa is best known for its soccer offerings. Kappa also has a performance division that caters to team sports, and the company sponsors various leagues and athletes in Europe.
The brand was purchased in 1994 by BasicNet, a company run by Marco Bolgione with backing from various banks, including the Benetton family’s investment bank, 21 Investimenti. The company is publicly traded in Italy and last year had profits of $1.8 million and revenues of $126.4 million. The company has been expanding Kappa’s presence in the last year by signing new distribution agreements in countries such as Russia, Turkey, Belgium, Denmark and Sweden.
Kappa has been sold through various distributors in the U.S. during the last decade, but until now most of the products available here have been performance-oriented and the brand was sold mainly in sporting goods stores.
Battle noted that a marketing campaign for men’s wear products will bow in magazines this spring and an advertising blitz for women’s will begin in the fall. The brand also has an informational Web site at kappausa.com.