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Kipling rebrands for a new audience

Kipling new classics collection spring 18 (17)

Drapers talks to Kipling’s vice-president and general manager Olivier Gay to find out how the 1990s favourite is strategising its future evolution.

Kipling olivier buiten

Olivier Gay

Founded in Belgium in 1987, Kipling, the 1990s’ favourite accessories brand, is reinventing itself. Clothing brand powerhouse VF Corporation bought Kipling in 2004, and this year is bringing in sweeping changes to the product and top team as it seeks to revive the brand’s heritage appeal.

The new leadership and design team is now based in  Bornem, Belgium, and is headed by global president Vera Breuer, head of design Danielle Wolfe and vice-president and general manager Olivier Gay, all of whom have joined the business in the last 18 months.

The target demographic is now a younger consumer and Kipling has adopted a gender-neutral design ethos that celebrates the brand’s 1990s heritage. Product, stores and the website will all transition to the new Kipling aesthetic. Drapers speaks to Gay to find out more.

Kipling new classics collection spring 18 (11)

Kipling’s New Classic collection spring 18

What changes are you making at Kipling?

The brand is 30 years old and we have a strong DNA. We’re known for quality, functionality and timelessness. It’s not going to be a complete revolution, because we’re keeping the same iconic features on products, such as the logo and zip details, but we want to bring back the heritage details and aesthetic, and make a product that is for a younger consumer, aged 18 to 25.

Kipling is a global brand: we do a third of our business in the Americas, one-third in Europe and one-third in Asia. We want the brand to be more similar globally. We used to have a design team for each of those markets – now we have just one global team of designers working alongside our new head of design, Danielle Wolfe, who joined last January from Tumi.

Previously, we had three different presidents – one for each region. We now have one global president, Vera Breuer, who joined in January from The Body Shop. It was a big change but there needs to be more homogeneity in terms of the brand image and product.

Kipling new classics collection spring 18 (22)

Kipling New Classics collection spring 18

What consumer demographic are you targeting with the shift?

The “New Classics” collection, released in retail stores in June, illustrates our world, because it is inspired by our heritage and it also targets a much younger client. [Retail prices range from £29 for a tote to £94 for a duffle bag.]

Kipling new classics collection spring 18 (4)

Kipling New Classics collection spring 18

We were stuck in our comfort zone. Our styles were working well with loyal consumers, and it was too easy to keep the styles and just change the colour. So, we said: ‘No. We have to reshape everything.’ We really have a strong heritage and we have to play with that.

Another step is to make our products more gender inclusive.

What is Kipling’s new retail concept?

We’re working on a new creative vision based on several core principles, including a casual, cool style and gender inclusivity.

The store concept needs to change: it is really “girly” – it’s based on a pink boudoir. If we want to attract a more gender-neutral consumer we need to be different.

We’re going to use different materials – a lot of concrete, light wood and have plants in the store. We’re still in the process of developing the concept, but it’s going to be very urban.

London is where everything happens so we’re going to remodel the Regent Street store as one of the first, when the concept is fully developed, and then roll it out.

The website also relaunched on 10 July to reflect the new look.

Kipling new classics0567

Kipling New Classics collection spring 18

Are you changing your distribution strategy at all?

We will be changing a little, in line with the changing product and younger target consumer. Again, it won’t be a revolution – it’s an evolution. We partnered with Zalando for the first time for spring 18, and we’re in discussions with Urban Outfitters and Asos. Currently the brand has almost 300 stores worldwide and has 200 UK stockists, including House of Fraser, Selfridges and John Lewis.

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