Label Profile: Kitsuné

"...what will be the scene of tomorrow."

Kitsuné is 10 years old. The brand’s base is in Paris and the idea for the record label and clothing brand was conceived by Frenchman Gildas Loaec and his Japanese counterpart Masaya Kuroki. To celebrate this milestone Kitsuné have released Kitsuné Maison 14, the latest in their successful series of compilation albums.

“We wanted the name to be strong so we started to make the compilations, gathering the newcomers and what will be the scene of tomorrow. We propose selections of young and talented artists. The more we do, the more people we are touching, and artists are very happy” says Gildas, explaining the initial reasoning behind the compilation series. “You don’t want to scare people who aren’t into music or make them go away. You need to not be too obscure or too underground, you need to be fun, there needs to be songs. It can be a newcomer, it can be things people don’t know, but it can’t also be complicated music. It’s important to balance some names, some songs, some underground, some more pop, and create a recipe that is quite accessible.”

This idea of accessibility is one of the driving forces behind the music side of Kitsuné, and one that’s inspired by Gildas’ personal tastes. “I think pop music is very English” says the man from Brittany. “Back in the day when I was younger I was very into it. I was a fan of the Happy Mondays, The Smiths, The Stone Roses and more dancey stuff like the KLF. It’s what I was listening to and I was getting into rave culture. We were the first to do a La Roux single and a Klaxons single.  It’s quite challenging being a French label and to break people like Two Door Cinema Club in the UK. Our next goal is to sign American hip hop artists and break them in the US.”

Gildas’ early passion for music led to his first meeting with Masaya around 20 years ago when he was managing a record store in the centre of Paris. “I’ve always been a club kid, that particular store was like a DJ/vinyl store. Masaya was a kid going to the store in front, we were super young, I was running that store when I was less than 20. It was just in front of the coolest store, at that time kids were into skateboards and there was a store called Street Machine. I think that with my vinyl, dance and DJ store in front of Street Machine it would have been the equivalent of what was happening in Covent Garden with Rough Trade and Slam City Skates. Masaya was more into skate and street culture than into club and DJ culture but the kids he was hanging out with were coming into my store. We didn’t connect that much at that time but I remembered him.”

Although they hadn’t connected too much, Masaya, the Japanese kid who could speak perfect French, was at the forefront of Gildas’ thoughts years later when he was working with Daft Punk and about to embark on a trip to Japan. “We were making a music video in Japan and I remembered this Japanese kid who could speak good French coming into my store and I found out his contact details” says Gildas. “This was about 6 or 7 years later that I got in touch with him, to see if he’d like to come over with us to Japan to be a guide on the ground over there. With Daft Punk we always wanted to be free and independent from the record company, at that time we were signed to EMI and we were travelling to Japan quite often. We wanted to be making our own things without having to involve Toshiba, EMI or Japanese people. With Masaya with us we were able to freely move around and it was in Japan that we became closer, got along better and discovered we had many common passions.”

These common passions centred around the worlds of music and fashion and whilst in Japan the original concept for Kitsuné was formulated. “We loved the idea of retail and making a brand and in Japan there were many stores already being what we would call a concept store now, where you can have a cafe and furniture and music and clothing” remembers Gildas. “We thought why don’t we do a brand with all of those elements in place from the start? That was the origin of it. It was not that common at that time, in the UK it’s still complicated to make the indie kids and music kids understand that we are also a clothes line. It’s the same with the people in the clothing business, they don’t understand you can be a proper clothes line and at the same time a music label. It works very well in Japan and in France and Europe, but in the UK it’s not yet there.”

The clothing side of the Kitsuné brand may not be as visible in the UK yet, but with the success of Two Door Cinema Club’s second album [Beacon reached number 2 in the UK album chart], the music side of the business is healthier than ever. “Two Door Cinema Club are the main, important thing at Kitsuné today” says Gildas. “It’s a band we’re really proud of, they’re the first band we signed to Kitsuné to make an album with, and they’ve gone platinum in the UK and sold a million albums worldwide. It’s put us in a position where we’re not only known for singles and compilations but we also able to keep and have a relationship with artists and also break them.”

For Kitsuné to have continually grown in stature over the last 10 years is testament to the different qualities and similar work ethic that Gildas and Masaya bring to the table. Most independent labels either stay small-scale, or over reach and struggle financially in these times of austerity in the music business. “We want to be the best music label ever and in order to get to that goal we’re working at developing a good service for artists” says the ambitious Gildas. “Masaya is the designer of the clothes line, and I’m the A&R of the music side. There are also different aspects of what we’re doing at the same time. We’re making a clothes brand and a music label so there’s a lot of creativity and art direction in it but at the same time we also like the idea of having a strong brand. We are self financing and like the idea of being entrepreneurs, having our own company and properly developing the business. We need to be commercially efficient in order to keep investing and developing and to support our artists more. We need to think about the economy but we try to do very good things. It’s a balancing act but we’ve opened stores in New York and Paris and we’re opening two stores in Tokyo in February so it is possible.” 

Photo Credit: Max Farago
Words by Paddy Hughes

The lovely folks at Kitsuné are making Gildas' remix of NTEIBINT's 'Time' available to download for free for ClashMusic readers, have a listen and download below:

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Kitsuné Facebook page.

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