After more than eight decades making its mark in the Asian market, Descente is setting its sights on America.
The Japanese athletic brand has created a wholly owned North American subsidiary, Descente Athletic Americas Inc., that is based in Atlanta, as well as an e-commerce site that will launch today.
Although Descente has sold its Mountain ski collection in the U.S. for some time, this marks the first time its Athletic lifestyle offering will be sold in America.
Fritz Taylor, a 30-year veteran whose résumé includes Nike, Under Armour, Brooks and Mizuno, has been tapped to serve as president of Descente Athletic Americas and to introduce the collection to the U.S. market.
Taylor admitted that when he was approached by Descente to join the company, he wasn’t interested. “The market is so crowded. Do we really need another sportswear brand?” he asked. But he agreed to make the trip to the brand’s Japanese headquarters, where he was impressed by Descente’s craftsmanship and innovation. “I felt like there was something really unique there,” he said, so he agreed to join.
“The sportswear market is at an interesting time where consumers are either gravitating toward disposable fashion or fewer but higher-quality garments,” Taylor added. “Our attitude is that less can be more if it’s beautifully made and well-thought-out. I really believe that with what’s going on in the market and with consumers, there’s a good opportunity for us to build this new business and strengthen market share.”
The initial launch will be for men’s only, but Taylor expects to launch women’s next year.
The collection that will be sold here will be the same as that available in Asia but with tweaks in terms of sizing, Taylor said.
In addition to the e-commerce site, Descente is planning to open retail stores within a year, he said. “We’ll be targeting the key metro markets on the coasts,” he said, including Los Angeles, New York and Seattle. The brand is direct-to-consumer in South Korea, where it operates 150 stores.
In the U.S., only limited wholesale will be offered to urban activewear specialists, not department stores or sporting goods retailers.
The collection, which he described as “premium luxury,” will range in price from $80 for T-shirts to $1,400 for a down jacket.
Taylor said the plan to introduce the collection to the U.S. market includes digital and print initiatives that will tell the brand’s story, which is “to inspire people to move through design, craftsmanship and quality.”
Descente was founded in Osaka, Japan, in 1935.