PARIS — K-Way announced on Saturday that it has been named as the official supplier of the French team competing in the 37th edition of the America’s Cup, cementing its presence in the premium sports segment as it gears up for a retail push into Asia.
The brand, which has become synonymous with its signature packable windbreaker, will provide technical regatta and leisurewear apparel for the Orient Express Team at the sailing race in Barcelona in 2024. It’s the latest sports partnership for K-Way, which is owned by Italian group BasicNet, whose other brands include Kappa, Superga and Jesus Jeans.
In a statement, K-Way noted that BasicNet’s Sebago label will supply the French team with a collection of technical and casual footwear, while stablemate Briko will provide protective gear including helmets, masks, glasses and life jackets.
Riding on the partnership, K-Way plans to expand its line of performance apparel with sailing gear, said Lorenzo Boglione, vice president of sales and member of the board of directors of BasicNet. It also has an ongoing collaboration with Santini, the Italian cycling clothes maker that supplies the yellow jerseys for the Tour de France, and sponsors surfer Leonardo Fioravanti.
“The idea is to really play on both fields, premium sports and fashion, because we believe they’re really strongly interconnected,” Boglione said in an interview in Paris, where K-Way hosted a fashion week party to celebrate its collaboration with the Café de la Paix, initially unveiled during Milan Fashion Week in January.
“Our customer is not a pure fashion victim, or a fashion nerd, nor a super performance-driven guy. It’s a guy who wants to feel fashionable and sporty at the same time,” he said.
Founder Léon-Claude Duhamel came up with the idea for K-Way in 1965 while sitting on the terrace of the Café de la Paix, watching a mother and her children struggle with cumbersome rain gear. He said it was originally sold with a separate pouch, retailing via mail-order firm 3 Suisses for 12 French francs, which is equivalent to around 17 euros today, according to France’s national statistics institute INSEE.
By the time he sold the company to Pirelli in 1990, he had produced 40 million pieces. BasicNet bought the brand in 2004 and its founder Marco Boglione, Lorenzo Boglione’s father, eventually reached out to Duhamel, inviting him to visit its headquarters in Milan.
“In my day, K-Way had a very good image, but we were a mass product. He has not only maintained this positive image, but he has turned it into a great brand, in the sense that he has really taken it upscale,” Duhamel said in a telephone interview.
K-Way has four distinct product lines: the core Klassic label; Le Vrai basics, including the signature windbreaker; the L’Action premium sportswear collection, which encompasses ski gear, and the R&D label, which is the runway collection.
“I would say 95 percent of the business is between Klassic and Le Vrai, and the rest is product that today is more of a marketing instrument, but we believe both can become proper businesses very soon,” Boglione said.
While BasicNet does not break out sales for individual brands, the group — which operates as a marketplace licensing collections to international producers and distributors — reported aggregate sales by commercial licensees of 1.27 billion euros in 2022, up 34.1 percent year-on-year.
Consolidated revenues, which include royalties and direct sales, rose 30 percent to 386.1 million euros, while net profit was up 47.7 percent to 30 million euros, according to the company’s annual results published on Thursday.
With a network of 100 stores worldwide, K-Way is raising investment in marketing and communications at it prepares to grow “significantly” in Asia over the next two to three years. It is opening a second store in Hong Kong at the K11 Art Mall, and has “very aggressive plans for China,” Boglione said, without providing further details.
“Hong Kong has been really tough for the past couple of years because COVID[-19] hit very, very hard there. But at the same time, they’re now open and China’s open and we are very positive on that. I really believe it’s going to go back to being the stepping stone into China even more,” the executive said.
“We believe the brand fits well with the current scenario in Asia so we will invest also in marketing and communication there more, because of course, we need to get people to know the brand, but we’re very excited for the future,” he added.
K-Way will scale back the number of its collaborations, following high-profile linkups with luxury brands including Saint Laurent and Fendi in recent years, he said.
“We like to do tactical collaborations for specific markets when there is an opportunity,” Boglione said. “We were lucky enough to be chosen by very prestigious brands and we have to keep it up. We can’t just do any collaboration, first because they are very time-consuming and complicated to manage and handle, but also because we need them to make sense.”
In addition to its ongoing partnership with Comme des Garçons Play, there are collaborations with two contemporary brands in the pipeline: French womenswear label Soeur and U.K. men’s clothing line Universal Works.
“The Café de la Paix project is an excuse to tell everybody when and how K-Way was invented,” Boglione said. “The brand is almost 60 years old and we always promote the product, and not the history of the brand, so I think it was very important to underline how strong and deep the history of the brand is.”