Mr Gildas Loaëc
It’s a hot and sticky afternoon in Paris. Up on the fourth floor of number 10, Rue Chauchat, the windows of Mr Gildas Loaëc’s office have been thrown wide open to let the air in. Down on the street below, passers-by are being treated to the soulful, synth-driven sound of Parcels, a five-piece indie outfit from Australia’s Byron Bay and one of the newest recruits to Mr Loaëc’s music-meets-fashion label, Kitsuné.
“They’re designed for a club,” he says, straining to make his voice heard over the metre-high twin JBL speaker cabinets that are currently causing the walls of the office to shake and the pedestrians several storeys below to glance up in confusion. “Around 200, 250 capacity.” It’s not entirely clear what they’re doing in a room that would struggle to comfortably accommodate half a dozen people, let alone 250, but you sense that it would be pedantic to ask.
They certainly sound the part: crisp and clear, even at high volumes – which are the kind of volumes that Mr Loaëc evidently prefers – and capable of delivering the sort of bass you don’t just hear, but feel. The speakers are powered, he tells me, by a Devialet amplifier, which, the internet tells me, is really rather good, too.
Mr Loaëc, as it turns out, is a man very much preoccupied with quality, and that goes for both pillars of the Kitsuné brand: music and fashion. You can see it in his taste for ultra-high-fidelity audio equipment; you can see it, too, in the careful, uncompromising construction of the clothes released by the brand under its clothing label, Maison Kitsuné.
Kitsuné, the brainchild of Mr Loaëc and his creative partner Mr Masaya Kuroki, launched in 2002 and began life as a record label specialising in hip electro compilations before branching out into clothes. As the co-founder and artistic director of the brand, Mr Loaëc is responsible for the music side of the business, while Mr Kuroki, who is based in Tokyo, heads up the Maison Kitsuné design studio.
The name of the clothing label, a coming together of the French for “house” and the Japanese for “fox”, reflects this Franco-Japanese dual nationality, while the word “Kitsuné” is imbued with a symbolism all of its own: in Japanese folklore, the fox is a mythical creature able to take on different forms, making it the ideal spirit animal for a brand that effortlessly switches between the roles of record label, fashion boutique and, latterly, coffee shop, with its three new Café Kitsuné locations spread across Paris and Tokyo.
“We liked the idea of creating a brand that reflects the things we’re passionate about,” Mr Loaëc explains. “We started off with music, which is where I began my career, but we love fashion, too, which is why we wanted to create a nice, simple clothing line. We love café culture, so you can now visit our Café Kitsuné locations and enjoy a coffee while listening to music. We like to think of Kitsuné as a mirror into our lives.”
Mr Loaëc got his start in the music industry early. He moved to Paris from western France at the age of 19 and was soon managing a record store called Street Sound, which shared premises with a skate shop. It was there that he met Messrs Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter, soon to become known as the helmet-clad robotic DJ duo Daft Punk. “They were customers of mine. We became friends, and I started living with Gold Helmet,” he says, referring to Mr de Homem-Christo.
He couldn’t have timed it better: Daft Punk’s star was just beginning to rise. They’d been signed to the Glasgow-based label Soma, had just put out their first single, an acid-house track called “The New Wave”, and were soon to release their breakout hit, 1995’s “Da Funk”. As part of a tight-knit inner circle, Mr Loaëc became responsible for a number of management and artistic roles within the band. He continued to work closely with them for the next 15 years – during which time they became one of the biggest DJ acts in the world.
Reminders of the time he spent as part of the team can be spotted throughout the office: sew-on Daft Punk badges on the shelves, album artwork stacked up against the wall, a gold plaque for the band’s 2001 album Discovery on the mantelpiece and, perhaps most notably, a framed photograph sitting in the fireplace of Messrs Loaëc, Bangalter and de Homem-Christo standing in front of the Eiffel Tower, taken when they were all still in their early twenties. “Daft Punk, unmasked,” he smiles.
With an exclusive Maison Kitsuné capsule collection ready to launch on MR PORTER, we sat down with Mr Loaëc (who is modelling the collection in these pictures) to find out more about his unique brand and working space.
You spent most of your twenties and thirties on tour with one of the biggest bands in the world. How have you adjusted to life behind a desk?
I appreciate how lucky I was to see the world with them. We were so young! And that experience of travelling the world provided me with a huge amount of inspiration when we created Kitsuné. But I still see them now – they were in the office a few days ago, sat right over there.
Who else has passed through?
We had a lot of success with Two Door Cinema Club, and then there are people like Hot Chip. Parcels, the band we were just listening to, are one of the latest artists on our books. They’re incredible live, and still only, like, 18 years old.
How long have you been in this office?
About three years now. I don’t know how many offices we’ve been through , but we’re currently looking to expand again. We already have two floors in this building, and there’s some space upstairs that we can take.
How many people do you have working for you?
About 50 people here, and if you include the showroom and the Paris retail stores it’s around 70 in total. We’ve got another office in Tokyo, where we’re around 25 – so overall that’s nearly 100.
“We started off with music, but we love fashion, too… We like to think of Kitsuné as a mirror into our lives”
You’ve got some interesting pieces of art in the office.
Yeah, but the only really collectable stuff was given to me by friends. The Mickey Mouse figurines are by Kaws, who we’ve collaborated with before. They’re one-of-a-kind: they’re supposed to have been melted by a nuclear blast. And the Dream Concert Poster, featuring Daft Punk, Air and Phoenix, was given to me by André. He’s another friend. A real art collection is still outside of my budget.
The staff here are very chic. Do you encourage them to dress head-to-toe in Maison Kitsuné?
Of course, there are certain benefits to working here! But the wonderful thing about our staff is that they’re already passionate about the brand. We don’t have to encourage them too much.
What made you choose the 9th arrondissement?
Well, it’s very central, so it’s super convenient in terms of getting around. One of our main stores is 200m down from here, and our showroom is nearby, too. I live a five-minute walk away.
Music, fashion, café culture – do you ever worry that you’re diluting the brand?
No, because Kitsuné has always been a multifaceted brand. It was created as something that people could engage with in different ways, that appeals to people of all ages, and that can work in Tokyo, London or Paris. Vitally, we only do things that we’re passionate about.