TOKYO — A decade after pulling its ICB brand from the U.S. market, Onward Kashiyama is staging a comeback with Prabal Gurung at the design helm.
This story first appeared in the February 14, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“ICB stands for International Concept Brand, but after we closed the last store in Europe, in Paris’ Saint Germain, last spring, it was no longer international,” said Onward’s president and representative director Akinori Baba, who took his post last September. “Onward Kashiyama is a Japanese company, so we were only looking at the Japanese market. But around the time of the earthquake last year, I started thinking about the origins of the brand, and [decided] that it should return to its international origins, to be…truly global, rather than just Japan and the rest of Asia.”
The first items designed by Gurung are due to hit U.S. stores in August or September, and will be revealed via a digital fashion show on Wednesday. The show will be the first hosted on a new platform to be launched by production and public relations firm KCD.
“We didn’t want it to get buried [among all the other shows]. I had thought that a [traditional] show is something that you feel with your five senses, but in reality, the buyers and editors are so busy during fashion week that they don’t have time to feel those things,” Baba said. “We wanted to experiment with something new, and since digital infrastructure has come this far, we felt like we had to use it.”
Initially the line will be available at between 10 and 20 stores across the country, and the company also plans to reintroduce it to the European market from spring 2013. In Asia, it will be available in countries such as China and Taiwan, as well as in Onward’s home country of Japan. Onward plans to have the brand carried in around 100 stores worldwide within the first three years of its international relaunch, and hopes the line will achieve sales of about 10 billion yen, or $128.8 million at current exchange rates.
“Instead of forcing expansion, we want to maintain the value of the brand. So at first we’ll be keeping the stockists limited,” Baba said.
Onward hopes to open a freestanding ICB store in New York as soon as next year.
Baba said ICB will be positioned in the market alongside brands such as Carven, which have a rich history, but are being made modern with the help of a talented young designer. He described the initial offering as a hybrid of ICB and Gurung’s own style — chic, wearable pieces incorporating intricate detailing and luxurious fabrics. Prices will range from $106 to $140 for pants, $118 to $438 for dresses, and $158 to $558 for jackets.
According to the executive, the relaunch of ICB in the U.S. and Europe represents the first of what could turn out to be many steps toward building a more internationally oriented company. Onward owns or licenses such international brands as Jil Sander, Tocca, Joseph, Missoni and Paul Smith, but it is less well known, particularly outside of Japan, for creating its own brands.
“I think the idea of how we can increase the value of the brands we have is very important, and I’d like to continue with that moving forward,” Baba said. “Now Japan is at the center [of our business], and we also have brands that are based in and made in Europe. And elsewhere in Asia we have locations that sell Japanese brands. But if we consider that we have the ability to create and make things in other Asian countries, we could start a brand based in Asia as well. In the U.S. we also have apparel facilities. If we can both make and sell products across and among all of these four areas…I think it would be very interesting. It’s like localism within globalism.”