Kookaï returns to its roots to rev up its future
Kookaï wants to shake up its image, so the Vivarte Group brand has developed a plan of attack for a relaunch. Leading the charge is an executive committee that’s totally new since the summer of 2013, with Kookaï’s new executive director Clarisse Mazière as its public face. To boost sales, priority is being placed on remaking the company’s style, before moving on to modernizing its distribution channels.
The company’s new fashion direction started with rebuilding the design team, directed since last year by Stefani Martini, formerly with Fées de Bengale and Kenzo. Under her direction, the dozen or so team members sought to return to the brand’s roots, to build on its expertise in imaginative knitwear, but with a new commitment to being more fashion-forward.
“Kookaï simply wasn’t fashionable any more,” confirmed Clarisse Mazière, “but it has to keep up with the times. We consider ourselves to be a brand, not a distributor. The difference is that we have to have our own distinct voice. Strong prints and rich colors are part of who we are, along with our nearly universally-present knitwear.”
Comprising nearly 40% of the Kookaï line, in all sorts of shapes and materials, knits are also referenced in woven pieces, in accents, in prints that mimic knits or in textured cabled patterns.
To strengthen a traditional industry position that Clarisse Mazière notes is “recognized by its clientele,” Kookaï has even created a “knitwear lab.” Five people have begun long-term research to enable Kookaï to develop its own innovations. “Imaginative knitwear is our history, but it’s also a current asset, because it’s our expertise that lets us differentiate ourselves from the distributors. For them, knitwear is a complicated subject in terms of sourcing, quality control, processes that take a long time to put into place,” explained Nicolas Gerlier, Kookaï’s marketing, communications and digital director.
The search for more coherence in the organization of the collections resulted in limiting the overall number of items to 500, with a division based on thematic design that can’t be further broken up. Going forward, each such thematic group will be presented in stores as a whole.
To identify its target market, Kookaï has defined the profile of its regular, loyal clientele. “The brand has a very, very good reputation, and we’re going to win back that clientele. We like to say that the Kookaï woman is more Diana than Venus: she is independent, a working woman who knows herself well and likes being noticed,” declared Clarisse Mazière.
So as not to put off these loyal clients, the brand’s average price point will change slowly, with a small annual increase of 2 to 3%. At the same time, new entry-level products will be introduced, starting at 50 euros, although the current average price is more like 70 euros.
As the arrival of the fall/winter collection sees boutiques hit their stride, September will mark the start of another project, aimed at 160 sales outlets this time. A new concept for a combination bricks-and-mortar and online boutique should be ready to roll this fall. A program now underway and nearing completion focuses on client relations, with training already begun for sales teams in existing branches. This comprehensive groundwork should help Vivarte Group’s Kookaï brand see its sales rebound beginning in fall/winter 14/15.
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