03/23/16 Masaya Kuroki of Maison Kitsuné
Masaya Kuroki isn’t letting a little back pain get in the way of his trip. Okay, it’s a lot of pain—the sort of nerve-related soreness that’s required twice-a-week rehab—but the Tokyo-based co-founder of Maison Kitsuné still isn’t about to sit still. And definitely not on the second stop of his record-cum-fashion label’s 3rd Parisien Tour.
On the tour’s Manila leg, Kuroki dropped by Hoodwink to welcome local customers into Kitsuné culture. Cocktails were served, Instagram-worthy fox masks were passed around, and under-the-radar beats from Maison Kitsuné’s compilations were played, punctuated by a club night at libertine nightspot Black Market. Beginning in Singapore and ending in Tokyo this year, the tour is a way to touch base with customers while sharing Kitsuné’s Gallic roots with a global fan base.
Of course, travel is fundamental to a label that celebrates the worldly vagabond. You’ll consider its customer the sort of boutique hotel-hopping flâneur who’s got tabs on every city’s most underrated neighborhood, rising acts, and cult coffee bars. A few hours before the brand’s listening party, Kuroki talked to NOUS about satisfying his craving for culture, from dishing out new artists through music compilations to serving up the brand’s own brew through Café Kitsuné.
You were in Singapore previously—can you tell us about the tour’s first stop?
Singapore was good but I think it’s too clean for me. It’s a great city but it’s very new—new town, new city, new buildings, new money. It’s very disciplined and organized but, I don’t know, missing a bit of soul. I love when there’s soul, you know? You’re from here?
I lived in New York but I came back because of the economic boom here in the Philippines, proof being that stores like Hoodwink exist.
Mark [Gonzalez, founder of Homme et Femme] is a visionary.
I’d say Maison Kitsuné is just as shrewd in melding music with fashion. How often do you release compilations?
It’s more once a year. I’m gonna talk like a consumer now—it’s actually like a music magazine. You open our compilation and you discover talented newcomers. It’s not like NME or Rolling Stone or whatever. There’s no strong concept, really. It’s more about showing newcomers—artists we feel like are gonna be next. We’ve done that with Two Door Cinema Club, Citizen, so many great artists who are playing the big stage now. Hot Chip, bands like that. Discovery is maybe the overall theme of the Maison Kitsuné compilation.
How has Spotify changed the way you dispense or consume music?
That’s probably the bridge between kids and us. It’s important to have those kinds of platforms. It’s probably killed half of the music industry’s market and we know that, but you can’t be against the system. You have to play. It’s like a game.
Have you discovered music at an unlikely venue lately?
It’s on the streets sometimes. People perform on the street, like these two girls from New York I spotted. Not saying bullshit—I get inspired by how people wear clothing on the street or how music is playing on the street, or why we opened the coffee shop is another cause of this. Because we love to go have coffee outside. Our lives keep moving all the time. We’re traveling all the time and we see so many people around the world. We’re a French brand, we’re from Paris, but our mind is global. Me and Gildas, we travel so much, you know? And we don’t buy any pages in magazines. You don’t see us on billboards. Zero budget on marketing.
You’ve gone into coffee culture through Café Kitsuné. And in an interview, you mentioned a possible Hotel Kitsuné in the future.
Yeah, definitely! That’s where half of my life has been almost, I feel like. So we can make a list of what is wrong in the hotel and what is good…nothing’s perfect but maybe we can satisfy certain customers.
Like what certain things do you personally look for when you’re staying in a hotel?
Oh, music! Music selection. Whatever hotel it is, music sucks each time! Sorry to say that but there’s no such hotel playing good music. It’s always elevator music.
Not even the Ace Hotel?
(Shakes head) It speaks to certain customers but I know they can do better than that because their sensitivity is much higher. But certain hotels, like this time, I’m staying at Peninsula, the music fits exactly with the building. There’s an orchestra playing music and it fits. When I say the music is wrong, it’s when it’s not fitting to the space. Music doesn’t fit with the décor they’re creating.
I’m wondering if age also influences what you create for Maison Kitsuné. I don’t know if you have kids…
Not yet, but I hope. Gildas does. Yes, of course, we will for sure! We want to do the kid’s line but before that, there’s an accessories line that we want to do. So that’s probably the next project. Bags, shoes…it’s complementary to the collection. Now the collection gets stronger and more and more fashionable. We’re strong in the men’s market but women’s is getting more and more interesting for me finally.
Of course, a big part of your brand is that you don’t forget place—Paris, specifically. Can you talk about the objectives of starting the Parisien tour.
We wanted to please our customers and go to see them, say hello and bring a bit of our Paris. Create a souvenir store—that’s why we create t-shirts and sweaters. They’re easy to buy. So that’s the whole concept behind it. And then especially when we have partners like Mark here, it’s been a while that we’ve worked together and if there’s no exchange and just one way, it gets boring.
For a while, the American West Coast influenced you visually. What about now?
Now, it’s Asia. All my Korean friends, they inspire me. Here [in Manila], the street and colors inspire me here. In Bangkok, Hong Kong—it’s like the New York of Asia. I grew up in Paris and I used to be in New York, but now, finally, I’m discovering Japan, my own land, my own blood, my own culture. Finally, I don’t see Tokyo like everybody sees it.
Can you tell me about anything we can look forward to besides the tour and accessory line?
We keep developing our retail, maybe in LA, London, or a second store in Hong Kong. Or a Café Kitsune in Manila. You guys love coffee, you have a real coffee culture, so why not here? That could be fun. We just opened a new store in Daikanyama, which his good news for us because we built a house and I designed it. That’s the good thing about having an architect in the brand. Me and my partner, we make jokes—imagine how much it’ll cost with an outside architect. I think we’re a real lifestyle brand. We share our sensitivities, our style, feelings, and we’re very honest, you know? Organic, very organic.