Oi Polloi

Interview: Gildas at Maison Kitsune

Published: Fri Jul 29 2016

Maison Kitsuné is a clothing company/record label/café experience from the minds of Gildas Loaëc and Masaya Kuroki. They’ve put out records with people like Daft Punk and Phoenix, and we’re sure they make a good cup of coffee, but it’s their clothes we’re really into... 

Sitting somewhere between Lacoste and A.P.C., their stuff is a super-French take on classic preppy garb. 

We chatted in cyber-space with Gildas (that’s him on the right, Masaya is on the left) to find out more…

Classic start of interview question for you here… what have you been up to today? 

We introduced our Spring-Summer 2017 men’s collection and women’s pre-collection for the first time last week in Paris during Fashion Week. For the next Spring-Summer season, we draw our inspiration from the French filmmaker, Jacques Tati. We’re also currently working on our upcoming projects for the end of the year—a holiday capsule collection and an exclusive collaboration to be launched end of November… stay tuned! 

For people who don’t know, can you explain what Maison Kitsuné is? 

Maison Kitsuné is all about quality, passion and authenticity. We’re not questioning ourselves too much by simply doing what we love: our brand reflects our lifestyle and vice versa. We achieve this through different mediums: Maison Kitsuné, the clothing line—we like to call it Effortless French.

With Kitsuné, the music label, we're looking for artists with something unique, for great productions that convey true emotions. Café Kitsuné, our cafés in Paris and Tokyo, simply offer the best latte in town! 

How did it come about? You started out as a record label before making clothes a few years later. What led you start a record label? 

Masaya Kuroki and I met 20 years ago in the first arrondissement of Paris, at the record store I had at that time. All the cool kids were hanging out there and Masaya was one of them. It all started while we were together in Japan with Daft Punk for a production movie called Interstella 5555. The Japanese concept stores that we discovered in Tokyo inspired us to create a clothing brand as well as a proper music label and to put those two activities under one roof, one brand experience.  

We knew how to operate a music label as I was already working in the music business. For the clothes, it took more time since neither of us came from a fashion background. We had to think about our market position, define a strong brand positioning in the fashion market and look for the good partners to work with, as we take special care in selecting the quality of the fabrics and the tailoring of the garments.  

You spent a lot of time working with Daft Punk. How did you meet them? What was it like working with them as they were getting bigger and bigger? What are your favourite memories from those times? Did you expect to get them as big as they did? 

When I was 19 I opened my own record store in the first arrondissement of Paris, called Street Sounds. It was known by all the Parisian DJs…that’s how I met Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter. They were really young at that time and were at the very beginning of Daft Punk, doing small live performances together in Paris, starting talking to music labels. We became friends and at the same time, my record store wasn’t doing so great. I ended up living at Guyman’s place with him. As I was around and certainly resourceful, I started assisting them… and I did that for the 12 following years. It was the luckiest experience of my life I guess.  

It was great to witness their growing success from the inside. In France this kind of international success story never really happens… that’s what is so magical about the music business: sometimes you get lucky with an artist, sometimes you don’t. I’m not surprised at all by how massively famous they've become: they are proper genius artists with a unique vision. I’m not working with them anymore but we’re still very close friends… they’re family. 

I suppose maybe the question is why isn’t there more cross-pollination? Clothes and music have always played a big part in each other, but not many record labels make anything more than t-shirts, and clothing companies rarely branch into music.  

Fashion and music have indeed always played a big part in each other. They are both similar when it comes to attention to details and vision but are also two different worlds with different codes and mechanics. With Maison Kitsuné, the idea has always been to create both a strong label and a strong brand, one has never been conceived as the subsidiary of the other. Maison Kitsuné, the clothing line and Kitsuné, the music label, are working independently but in harmony.  

Working in both industries force us to remain open-minded and curious about everything.  

You started Maison Kitsuné in 2002. I know that’s only fourteen years ago but things change so fast these days that it now seems like a good while ago. How has running a record label and making clothes changed since then? 

With the internet everything has become global. We are very lucky and happy to live in this era. The internet is so great for us as it keeps bringing opportunities, brand recognition, ideas... and spontaneous love. More than ten years ago, consumers moved to a digital approach towards music. Now there is an incredible increase in the streaming in music. It’s for sure the future of music and we have been very careful about it. We are developing Kitsuné on Youtube, Spotify, Deezer… and have actually created Kitsuné Hot Stream—our online music label, available on all streaming platforms, with super nice music every week!

And how has Paris changed? 

Paris has changed for the best… Paris was the worst city for cabs. Since we have Uber in Paris, it’s really changing people’s life. Now you can actually go out in the evening and be sure you will find a ride back home… before, you were going home walking.  

There’s definitely a sort of 80s Lacoste thing to some of your clothes. Is Lacoste a big influence? Lacoste has always been big here, maybe because it seems sort of exotic and fresh, especially in the rainy towns in the north of England. What sort of people wore Lacoste in France growing up? 

Lacoste used to be very BCBG (Bon Chic Bon Genre)… preppy in English. Today it is a mass market brand that’s very popular now among suburbs kids. 

What else are you influenced by? What other clothes do you wear? 

My everyday life, movies, exhibitions, travels… inspiration is everywhere. I love workwear and military—I love Kapital, Anatomica and some other more underground Japanese nerd’s brands. 

Sort of going on from that question, how important do you think location is to design? How would Maison Kitsuné differ if you were from somewhere else like Berlin or Rome? 

So far, Paris and Tokyo have been good to us… I’m not sure there is such thing as ‘a best place’ to do what we’re doing at Maison Kitsuné. I think we’re doing something simple, fresh and playful. 

Many people are travelling to Paris from everywhere to look at what is trending here, particularly on the fashion side. Also Paris isn’t that busy in terms of international music labels, compared to London for example, which gives us more space to express ourselves.  

Okay, I’ve asked a few fairly vague questions so far, so I’ll bring things up to date a bit. What’s going on at Maison Kitsuné these days? 

Our Fall-Winter 2016 collections are about to drop in stores and online. It pays homage to our Japanese heritage and is inspired by the movie The Wind Rises by Hayao Miyazaki. 

We also launched our very first Maison Kitsuné shoe line last May, from loafers to boots for men and women. From the music side, we’re working with great artists like Tkay Maidza—her debut album is planned for September—and Parcels, our latest signature. 

You lot still put out a lot of music. What new bands are you into these days? 

Parcels, actually! I’m very impressed by these boys. They’re only 19. They’re from Byron Bay but are based in Berlin. They’re fantastic—you must see them live—they have the best groove. 

Tkay Maidza is a fantastic young hip hop artist… she is 19 and signed to the Kitsuné music label. She already has a great following. 

One last question here Gildas. I know a lot of people can be negative about ‘current music’. What are your thoughts on what’s coming out today? Do you think it’s getting harder for people to do something new? 

I’m still listening to a lot of music every week and we find lots of great new stuff all the time… our music channel Kitsune Hot Stream available on spotify, deezer, youtube and so on, reflects that. 

See the Maison Kitsuné stuff here.

Portrait by H.Masaki, clothing photos by Adam Hindmarch.