Influenced by it's Japanese meets French heritage, Maison Kitsuné has fast become one of our all-time favourite brands. Vogue recently featured the latest addition to theKitsuné clan, an oh-so-cool cafe in New York's West Village. Check out all the details below…
In emoji speak, Kitsuné’s present state of being could be summed up by the coffee and flame symbols. A purveyor of Parisian cool, the brand is firing up in expansion mode. Having hired Yuni Ahn, one-time creative head of old Céline, to take over the direction of the fashion line and build an in-house atelier, best friends and cofounders Masaya Kuroki and Gildas Loaëc have been freed up to focus on the commercial aspects of the growing business and to further explore their interests in gastronomy. After opening their own roastery in Japan (another in France is planned) and a new Café Kitsuné in Aoyama, Tokyo, the duo are unlocking the doors at a cafe-bar-bistro in New York’s West Village on Monday.
Dominated by large windows, the Hudson Street space, on the street-level of an 1861 building, has a welcoming, warm atmosphere. Kuroki, who’s an architect, chose pale oak furnishings, complemented by ochre-yellow velvet banquettes and black woven bamboo chairs. The dominating feature is a gleaming sushi counter, but Café Kitsuné is less a sushi restaurant than it is what Kuroki calls a “modern version of the kind of cafés Paris used to have, a place where you meet people, you exchange ideas, you make discoveries, and you see different worlds.” The menu, which was developed with Tokyo-based chef Yuji Tani, includes coffee and pastries, salads, sandwiches, and natural wines. Asked to categorize the tastes of the place Kuroki responded: “today.”
Launched in 2002, with time Kitsuné has become its own universe. Not only do East and West mix in this world, but Loaëc and Kuroki have exploded the luxury lifestyle idea to be truly multisensory. They’ve grown the brand without marketing and advertising, but by following their personal passions and, says Loaëc, “going deeper into each category and learning at the same time.” Today, both Loaëc (born in France) and Kuroki (born in Japan and raised in Paris) call Tokyo home, but the peripatetic pair are really global citizens who segued naturally from music into fashion and then into food. “Our idea is still very simple,” Kuroki says, “it’s to make a brand out of our style of living—which is traveling, listening to music, being passionate about cultures, and loving fashion.”
While Loaëc and Kuroki are inarguably part of an “in” crowd, Kitsuné is a brand that also claims “outsider” status. Personally, Kuroki has always felt caught between two cultures, Japanese and French, and not completely at home in either of them. Business-wise, the company is that rare thing, a good-size—and growing—independent label. It was started without a business plan, and while there’s now one in place, the partners feel free to veer from it. That the roastery, for example, was absent from any P&L spreadsheet, in no way hindered the project. “We’re lucky to do what we love every day and to be able to do things the way we want without forcing ourselves into anything,” says Loaëc. Asked if he’s wary that expansion might lead to dilution, Kuroki is quick to respond in the negative. “We’re not part of the [fashion] game,” he says. “Always having been kind of outsiders gives us the freedom to be everywhere.” Welcome to the Big Apple, Café Kitsuné.