The MCM brand shows no signs of slowing in its ascent to becoming a billion-dollar brand.
The accessories company — German-born and Korean-run, helmed by chief visionary officer Sung-Joo Kim — will this week present its first full-fledged ready-to-wear collection at Pitti Uomo. The presentation is a branding exercise, meant to flex not only the brand’s financial prowess, but also its full-circle luxury vision.
“I think to be a luxury brand, you have to once in a while show what you are doing to a top level of global buyers and media and that’s why we are showing at Pitti,” said Kim.
“The runways are no longer driving trends. The catwalk is a moment for brand expression at the highest level for top global buyers and media. We use this avenue as the manifestation of the brand focus for the coming season,” she added.
The company established a Milan design studio in December, filling its ranks with alums of brands including Jil Sander, Prada, Céline, Saint Laurent and Versace. While MCM has sold outerwear and limited basics in the past, Wednesday’s presentation will be its first complete apparel vision. The brand will allot space for the collection in its own key stores and plans to eventually wholesale the designs.
The MCM label was purchased by Kim, a veteran of the luxury industry, in 2005 and has grown to become a global accessories powerhouse. The brand’s sales for 2018 are on track to clock $650 million, and are next year projected to reach $900 million.
While rtw is a new venture for the label, Kim does not see it accounting for more than 10 percent of global sales. “A lot of top luxury brands like Gucci have a leather goods background, but make clothes, too,” she said of the rationale behind the rtw venture. “We do a substantial portion of our business in the Asian markets where customers prefer to see a complete look. This is also a growing trend in the Europe and U.S. markets.”
At Pitti, the brand will show a collection titled “Luft” (German for air), which will evoke stylistic elements of its “global nomad” consumer profile. A preview sketch of the collection shows a tracksuit emblazoned with the MCM name. “We are still new to rtw; however, we plan to offer key items that stem from the needs of our main audience — a global nomad. As a German brand, we try to be more functional, with high-tech fabrics. It will be quite a different attitude than what conventional luxury is doing,” Kim said.
While it has a global presence, MCM takes a regional approach to its retailing and marketing efforts. The product sold in Seoul is tailored to that hyperfeminine, trend-driven market, while merchandise in New York veers more classic and urban.
In an effort to bolster U.S. sales, MCM has embarked on a creative marketing strategy. It has funded “The Remix: Hip Hop x Fashion,” a documentary that premiered its trailer at April’s Tribeca Film Festival. The film is due out in the first half of next year. It focuses on Nineties hip-hop stylist Misa Hylton — who heralded a fashion movement in which MCM took part. Rather than create a commercial bearing the company’s logo, MCM hopes funding an independent film will ingratiate the brand with the Millennial consumer.
“When MCM was popular in the Nineties in the hip-hop community, people like Dapper Dan were designing MCM bootlegs because we weren’t around to sue them. The company had gone bankrupt. It’s why people like Mike Tyson were wearing bootleg MCM stuff. This is why, in the U.S. we have always had a connection to hip-hop. It’s when hip-hop got started trying to find its style, it wanted to get into the luxury space,” Kim explained of the film’s relation to the brand.
She added: “Millennials celebrate culture, so we decided to align with hip-hop culture. It’s about promoting a lifestyle and promoting a cultural movement.”
In the meantime, MCM released the first installment of its collaborative partnership with Puma last month. The collection’s limited-edition run of sneakers and tracksuits sold out in the U.S. within six minutes.