#fashion: K-Way debuts in Hong Kong

French brand K-Way has arrived in Hong Kong and not only with its colourful nylon jackets. Lorenzo Boglione, executive vice president of parent company BasicNet Group, talks to Zaneta Cheng about maintaining the spirit of the iconic brand while continually elevating its design

Ask anyone who grew up in France or Italy if they had a K-Way growing up and the chances they’ll say yes are as good as they are that they enjoy cheese. The colourful windbreakers were so ubiquitous that school field trip packing lists, reminding parents and children to bring a sandwich and a water bottle, would also have as a bullet point to bring a K-Way as shorthand for an outdoor jacket.

Founded in Paris in 1965, the brand is the brainchild of clothing retailer Léon-Claude Duhamel, who saw people rush into stores with wet clothes on grey and rainy days and wanted to create an easy-to-carry waterproof item that was neither an umbrella nor a raincoat. He came up with K-Way, a rainbow assortment of light, nylon jackets that he made recognisable with a signature multicolour stripe of orange, yellow, white, grey and black.

Now K-Way extends its kaleidoscopic world to Pacific Place and alongside its nylon jackets and equally foldable and packable T-shirts and outdoor wear, the brand will also be stocking its premium urban collection – a newer proposition created with its contemporary customers in mind.

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K-Way’s reputation has always centred on its colourful jackets and simple, packable windproof clothing. How did it go from these staples to the more luxury and premium pieces that the brand offers now?

The brand started from a very simple nylon pack that can be unfolded into a jacket – very functional, very basic and still our core product. We started from there [when BasicNet Group acquired K-Way in 2004] but we had to develop a brand that kept all the same values but was of a different product because outdoor wear is slightly limiting.

We started seeing a trend towards more structural jackets and because the packable jacket wasn’t doing as well at the time, we created what we called an “urban collection” that was immediately very popular. So that’s where we started. Then [consumers] began to notice the packable outdoor jackets again but these really weren’t a bestseller in the first years.

Our more fashionable items really came during the design process when our development team was coming up with amazing jackets every season. We were frustrated because we couldn’t go out and sell them because they were too expensive, too complicated, too fashionable.

So we said okay, let’s launch a collection where our designers have total freedom and we only stock those pieces in our stores and super-premium multibrand boutiques around the world so we can really showcase how talented our designers are. We did that and in around 2019/2020, we were invited to do a fashion show and we’ve been participating in Milan Fashion Week to showcase this collection ever since. It’s been very successful.

How do you tie the functional DNA of the brand to design when it comes to the more premium pieces?

Our ideas always revolve around colourful, functional and contemporary pieces. So all of what we do follows that. The idea is that there is always the multicolour zipper that connects the products. And colour, of course. There is also the functionality to all the pieces. That’s a staple in every product that we do. We then of course adjust the design to target a more premium luxury customer. Luxury isn’t what we want to do but really it’s more premium through a design-driven, classic approach for daily use. The brand was founded in 1965 and it began because of this waterproof and wind-blocking material.

Has the brand continued to use this material or has it been modified?

It’s not the same material. It looks similar and it’s always nylon but the original material wasn’t breathable. It was barely waterproof. Today, we have a much more technical product, which is breathable and it’s very much waterproof. It has a completely different technical spec compared to the original one and we continue to evolve it, improving it as technology changes and will continue to do so in the future. There’s also the signature multicolour zipper tape that we should talk about.

How did that come about?

That came about because of a supply chain problem the founder had 50 years ago. He was trying to find a zipper tape that would match the colour of the jacket but at a certain point, he was going crazy because he wanted to produce 20 different colours and so needed to source 20 different tapes. That was making the whole production process extremely complicated compared to what he was actually able to do, so he decided to create a zipper and tape that works with every colour of jacket and so he came up with this colour combination that we find works really well.

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