Vancouver-based 'Technical Luxury™' brand Kit and Ace plans to open approximately 15 flagships by early 2016, according to the company's co-founder J.J. Wilson. We interviewed Mr. Wilson yesterday, and he explained how the brand is ending its 'test phase', and how it will now operate full-concept flagship stores with longer leases across the country.
Founded in 2014 by Shannon Wilson (wife of Lululemon founder Chip Wilson) and her son, J.J., Kit and Ace's clothing is made from proprietary fabric called Qemir, which includes cashmere. Remarkably, the product can be washed in a machine instead of having to be dry cleaned.
Kit and Ace currently operates five Canadian locations. These were originally intended to act as temporary test 'studios' prior to the brand's long-term rollout. Located in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Saskatoon and Toronto, all but the Vancouver studio operate on 12-month leases. Mr. Wilson explains that these temporary locations were part of the brand's 'beta testing' phase where store fixtures, exteriors, and general store design and function were evaluated. Beta testing also included evaluating and modifying Kit and Ace's fashions, including fabric, styles, weight and scope of product. The brand continues to expand its product offerings as it matures.
Mr. Wilson tells us that two new Canadian flagship locations are confirmed, while two will be revealed shortly. Possibly its most prominent Canadian flagship will be a 3,300 square foot location at Toronto's 102 Bloor Street West. It will replace a Benetton store as well as an adjacent retail space to the rear facing Critchley Lane, currently occupied by Industry Hairdressing. Sources say that the 102 Bloor retail space was recently considered by Italian luxury brands Brunello Cucinelli and Ermenegildo Zegna, both currently looking for retail space on or near Toronto's famed 'Mink Mile'.
Located at 2235 West 4 Avenue, a Vancouver flagship is confirmed for the city's Kitsilano area. The store is scheduled to open on July 1. It will replace local retailer Oh My Gift, which recently secured retail space about two blocks east.
Mr. Wilson says that details are being finalized for Kit and Ace flagships in Edmonton and Calgary, and we'll discuss these further when permitted. Kit and Ace also plans to open at least one more location in Toronto, as well as flagships in Saskatoon, Regina, Winnipeg, Halifax, and possibly eventually Kelowna, BC. Kit and Ace's original 151 Water Street 'studio' will remain open indefinitely, as Mr. Wilson says that the store "is rocking". The Vancouver location was the brand's first, having opened in July of 2014.
Mr. Wilson explained that brick-and-mortar locations are key to Kit and Ace's brand identity, and that the face-to-face, tangible shopping experience cannot be replicated online. Furthermore, physical stores allows the brand to connect with customers, even allowing them to occasionally host innovate community gatherings such as in-store dinners.
Mr. Wilson says that Kit and Ace continues to look for retail space, generally in the 2,800 to 3,200 square foot range. Although streetfront locations are preferable, Mr. Wilson says that the brand will consider locating in top-tier high-traffic malls such as Toronto's Yorkdale Shopping Centre, West Vancouver's Park Royal or Calgary's Chinook Centre. Currently, no Kit and Ace locations are confirmed for these three shopping centres.
Besides the approximately 15 Canadian locations intended to open by early next year, Mr. Wilson says that Kit and Ace will open a further 15 to 40 locations internationally. Japan, the United Kingdom and Australia are on its radar, with American locations confirmed for Cincinnati, Columbus, Denver, Minneapolis, St. Louis, San Jose and Washington DC. The American locations will open by mid-October of this year.
We'll update this article with details of Kit and Ace's new Edmonton and Calgary locations, as well as further details as it expands nation wide.