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Oct 11, 2022
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Kathmandu marks European entry with Paris event

Translated by
Oct 11, 2022

After having impressed the panel of judges at the Outdoor Retailer and ISPO trade shows this year for its innovative NXT-Level jacket, the New Zealand-based label is setting its sights on the ready-to-wear market. The brand, which is in the midst of its European expansion, set up shop for a day during Paris Fashion Week, on September 29, at the L'Eclaireur concept store located in Paris' Marais district.

Mathieu Lefin, president of KMD Brands Europe; Armand Hadida, owner of L'éclaireur, an Eva Barrett, chief customer officer at Kathmandu - DR

The store, renowned for its exceptional selection of clothing made of innovative materials, presented the jacket of the label already established in Australia and New Zealand. The NXT-Level jacket, made of Nylon 66, is paving the way for "biodegradable" outdoor products. For the moment, throwing one's used jacket in nature is out of the question, but Kathmandu explained that within five years, in a biologically active landfill without oxygen, about 90% of the entire garment will biodegrade.

Kathmandu's innovation is clearly a very encouraging sign for the entire clothing sector, which is becoming increasingly concerned about the end of life of products. It is also an opportunity for the Kiwi brand to stand out in the European market.

"We are going to use this innovation and the NXT-Level jacket to explain our approach, our relationship with nature because of the New Zealand identity of the brand, but it is the whole concept of the brand that we want to be able to work on," explained Eva Barrett, chief customer officer KMD Brands, which owns Kathmandu, as well as brands such as Rip Curl and Oboz shoes.

Kathmandu, a long-time player in the distribution of outdoor products in New Zealand, began producing fleece items made from recycled plastic bottles in 1991. The company has decided to change the tone of its business, aiming to bring its outdoor expertise to the international stage.

"To achieve this, Robert Fry joined the company in 2020, bringing his expertise acquired at The North Face, Columbia and Mountain Hardwear. He is very familiar with international markets. He is a product specialist and our upcoming seasons will see his work begin to express itself with the use of new materials and new colors," explained Mathieu Lefin, president Europe of KMD Brands. "In Europe, we are positioning the brand in a mid-range-premium segment. And we have made a selection of corresponding products."

In order to expand globally, Kathmandu will start distributing its products in select stores that sell outdoor products and, above all, a network of independent outdoor specialists, such as Le Vieux Campeur in France and Sportsheck in Germany. In England, where the brand has already attempted to establish itself, the label is implementing a completely different kind of marketing strategy, focused on communicating the joy of discovering the great outdoors rather than on technical performance, as well as on a sustainable approach, considering that the company is B Corp certified.

Launching in France, the UK and the Germany-Austria-Switzerland area is the company's priority for its European expansion. The KMD Brands group, which acquired Rip Curl three years ago, is counting on the European facilities of the surf brand based in the southwest of France. The brand's team intends to deliver a different aesthetic and technical offering to retailers and end consumers with Kathmandu.

"These three territories are very important markets in Europe in terms of outdoor activities," said Lefin. "We could consider other countries as well, such as northern Spain, northern Italy or Scandinavia. But we must first establish our business in key markets," he continued.

KMD Brands recently presented its annual results. The company announced an annual growth of 6.2% to 979.8 million New Zealand dollars (566 million euros) including 537 million for Rip Curl, up 9.5%, 382 million for Kathmandu, up 6.8% and 61 million for Oboz, whose sales fell by 18%.

Kathmandu is aiming to expand in Europe, as well as in North America, where it is implementing the same strategy in Canada before targeting the American market.

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