MONKEY BUSINESS: Echoing the tactics of modern luxury brands, leading streetwear makers are plotting measured international expansion hinged on careful selection of distribution partners, and tight control on the brand image and customer relations.
To wit: On Feb. 2, A Bathing Ape will enter Eastern Europe via an exclusive with trendy Moscow department store Tsum, which revealed the brand’s arrival by parking in its windows a Bentley plastered with Bape’s logo and camouflage.
“Bape is a highly desirable brand with really selective distribution, and Bape’s management selects one-by-one every single retail account based on the brand assortment and customer demographics,” said Riccardo Tortato, Tsum’s fashion director for men’s wear and e-commerce.
The Japanese brand will debut in a pop-up setting, the shop design curated by Tortato alongside the Bape team. Assortments will echo what’s found at Bape flagship stores in fashion capitals like London or New York.
“I can feel that Bape today is at its peak. Everyone wants it. I was even more convinced when I started seeing the famous Bape shark hoodie here in Moscow, and I am sure that Bape will outperform when our client will have the access to it,” Tortato said in an interview. “Recently, I saw online a vintage Bape white T-shirt priced at 9,000 euros. The price reflects the demand. This is a perfect time.”
Streetwear is one of the best-performing categories at Tsum, which in recent years has added many trendy brands including Off-White, Balenciaga and Palm Angels in a new “concept area.” Bape will later set up a permanent home in this On-Tsum area after the initial pop-up.
“The demand of the high-quality street product is important and this is global. There is no difference between a teenager in New York or in London or in Moscow. Nowadays social media allows a customer to receive information 360 degrees from every part of the world,” Tortato said. “It’s my duty to answer to this demand.”
Japanese designer and music impresario Nigo found A Bathing Ape 26 years ago. It has been controlled by Hong Kong-based retailer I.T Ltd. since 2011.