K-Way focuses on sport, will outfit France’s next America’s Cup team
From fashion week events to the America's Cup. K-Way will outfit the newly formed Orient Express team, which will represent France at the world-famous sailing competition to be staged next year in Barcelona’s waters. The mood of K-Way’s latest partnership was quite different however: after bringing the Café de la Paix to Milan for the sportswear label’s fashion week show in January, K-Way took over the renowned Parisian café overlooking the Opéra Garnier theatre for a collaboration and gala evening.
The collaboration is a celebration of K-Way’s roots. Founder Léon-Claude Duhamel is said to have developed the K-Way concept in 1965, looking at the café’s patrons. K-Way is now owned by Italian group BasicNet, which has revitalised the brand over the course of the last 10 years. Lorenzo Boglione, the group's vice-president and head of sales, talked to FashionNetwork.com about his vision for K-Way, with the luxury Parisian café’s lavish windows in the backdrop.
“When we bought K-Way, the brand was still very well-known. In Europe, it had even become a commonly used term to identify a kind of wind-breaker. Our aim was to reposition K-Way as a fashionable contemporary functional brand. After a 10-year effort, I think we have reached our goal: people like [K-Way], and wear it with pride. We sell plenty of sport jackets and other products in France and in many other markets. So we thought the time had come to talk about our history. But avoiding banality, which wasn’t so easy. This collaboration with Café de la Paix, a first for them, enabled us to tell our story.”
The collaboration lent a Parisian café atmosphere to K-Way's Milan Fashion Week show in January. Three years ago, when K-Way first featured in a fashion week, the participation may have come as a surprise, but the label’s design team, specialised in outerwear, has been able to develop a clear style positioning, which the label is adroitly tapping.
“Ultimately, fashion weeks are like platforms, moments in time when everyone’s eye is focused on the same spot. A bit like the Super Bowl in the USA. If you’re able to carve out a little room under the spotlight, whether with a fashion show, an event or something else, you’ll be able to bring together a lot of prominent people, from buyers to influencers, celebrities and the media. We aren’t actually a show label, in the sense that 80% of our sales come from products that are variations on the same theme, but we’re visible, and this is important, because buyers will come to our showrooms in January and February. The January fashion week period is perfect for us.”
Fashion and sports marketing
Boglione believes that a fashion week presence isn’t at odds with sport-related investment. “We’re both sporty and fashionable. In the end, our customers love our products because they’re colourful and easy to wear. We’re well on the way to blend a premium sporting image with style and design credibility.”
After a Formula 1-themed line with the Alpine team, K-Way developed a first skiwear collection for next winter. It is also turning its attention to golf, and at the next America's Cup it will outfit the members of the French sailing team, with skipper Quentin Delapierre and head of performance Franck Cammas at the helm.
K-Way will produce the competition gear as well as the team’s formal outfits. In fact, BasicNet will outfit the Orient Express team from head to toe through its own brands: Sebago will produce footwear, Briko the athletes’ protection equipment, and Kappa will take care of training apparel.
“The combination of sports marketing with fashion is a potent one. We aren’t the first to have gone down this road. But we have the perfect heritage for both, because K-Way was a sportswear brand well before any fashion label was,” said Boglione. “We did sailing wear in the 1970s and skiwear in the 1980s, so we remain true to our brand's roots.”
The recent collaborations also marked a new stage in K-Way’s brand development. According to Boglione, “[K-Way] plays a crucial role in BasicNet’s growth and profitability, and is an object of investment. We have been able to handle successfully the label’s growth and its distribution footprint.” By engaging in high-level sport, K-Way is gaining visibility, at a time when it is embarking on a new international expansion drive. Last year, the label took direct control of its distribution in France, and inked a deal with the Bluebell group to accelerate in Asia.
“In Europe, we have a strong presence in Italy and France. We’ll open a number of new stores, but above all we’ll improve existing ones. We need larger stores, with a retail area between 100 and 200 square metres, able to showcase our full range, from skiwear to sailing wear and accessories.” With this in mind, K-Way has upgraded its store on rue du Temple in Paris, adopting the new interiors concept first tested in Verona and Bologna in Italy, and later deployed in Tokyo and Hong Kong.
Boglione visited the latter store a week ago as part of the partnership with Bluebell, which will open a second K-Way store in the city, inside the Tsin K11 Art shopping mall. In mainland China, BasicNet is collaborating with Translatio, a subsidiary of Bluebell, which operates a store in Shanghai and a concession at the Galeries Lafayette's Beijing branch, and has further plans for the second half of the year.
Plans for 2023? “We’re reasonably optimistic, although consumers all over the world are being very cautious with their shopping,” said Boglione. “We have managed to limit price rises for our products, and I think we’re one of the labels multibrand retailers trust the most. I’m confident about our business with them, because we have gone through a positive sales phase. [Direct] retail will be a challenge, because we’ll need to bring consumers in-store. I won’t make any forecast, but I don’t think that, as a group, we’ll replicate the same performance we did in 2022, especially since [last year] we carried out a few acquisitions. However, despite the dollar’s fluctuations, I hope our profitability will improve. We’re a family company. Our goal is for our business to be healthy and to still be here in 20 years’ time.”
In 2022, BasicNet generated a revenue of €1.2 billion with a net income in excess of €30 million, and the scope of its activity may well expand. “We have the capability of acquiring a new brand,” said Boglione. “But we need a very special brand that fits well with our portfolio. Some of our brands have a very strong heritage and sell products that are categories in themselves. So far, I haven’t found a target that satisfies these requirements,” concluded Boglione.
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