Japanese label Bape boosts French presence with website and PSG collab
Japanese premium streetwear label Bape recently launched a collaboration with the Paris Saint-Germain football club, confirming its interest in the city of Paris and France in general. Bape set up shop in the French capital a year ago, teaming up with the Galeries Lafayette group, which helped Bape open a store at 34 rue de la Verrerie, close to the Galeries Lafayette-owned BHV L'Homme and BHV Marais department stores. It was a challenge both for the Japanese label and for the French retail group, both treading onto new ground. Twelve months later, Bape’s footprint has extended, as the label went live with its French language website, again with the help of Galeries Lafayette.
According to Galeries Lafayette, it has been a success: “We had to convince them,” said Guillaume Pats, in charge of special concepts at Galeries Lafayette, who negotiated Bape’s arrival in Paris. “Bape wanted to open a European flagship store. They were looking for the city with the strongest streetwear vibe. Initially, they didn’t get that feeling in Paris, a city where there is a lot happening on many levels. We took them on a journey of discovery, and we showed them the neighbourhoods with the potential to host a Bape store. Like the southern end of the Marais for example, where there is an interesting environment, with stores like Le Lab, Adidas’s 42 and Supreme. They eventually agreed to the current location, and right from the first few months, the success with customers has exceeded our expectations,” said Pats.
Even though the area around the store isn’t exactly streetwear country, the venue is popular with a French and international clientèle aged 13 to 25. There two categories of customers: kids who go for €80 t-shirts, and fans of the latest trends, which can also find Gucci in the vicinity. According to Pats, this type of customer also visits the Off-White retail corner at the Galeries Lafayette.
The Bape store got off to a good start, also due to the fact that the label is a well-established, influential name in premium streetwear. Bape was created in Tokyo 25 years ago, DJ Nigo one of its founders. At the beginning of this decade, it was bought by Hong Kong group IT. Bape now operates a dozen stores in Japan and several others in the rest of Asia, as well as two stores in the USA, in New York and Los Angeles.
In France, Galeries Lafayette runs the operational side of things, and has instigated collaborations like the one with PSG and, earlier in the year, with watch brand Bell & Ross. Working with a drop-based label is a novelty for the French department store group’s staff.
“From a logistics point of view, we rely on the group’s organisation, so all is working well. Bape is a highly curated label. Everything is very precise,” said Pats. “There is a specific way of folding and laying out each garment, for merchandising purposes. The sales staff doesn’t have an official outfit, but the label makes recommendations to each shop assistant as to the items that fit them best. Brand image is also of paramount importance. Bape works with different social media on different markets. We produce our own photoshoots, but the guidelines are the same for everyone. The most important thing is to reach the ideal customer. Product-wise, we showcase the complete range. However, as Bape is still building its reputation in France, merchandising must enable first-timers to understand the label’s history and find what they are looking for.”
This rigorous approach clearly allowed Bape to attract international consumers, but also French consumers from the country at large. Seeing that the number of customers from outside Paris peaked during the school holidays, Bape and Galeries Lafayette are launching the French-language website on November 30. For Galeries Lafayette, working with Bape is also an interesting calling card, to try and attract international brands that are currently setting their sights on the French capital.
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