Michi dips its toe into French market with concession at Le Bon Marché
Michi's Canadian-made sportswear is making its French debut with an exclusive launch at Parisian department store Le Bon Marché where it will run a concession until November. Outside of Ireland and the United Kingdom, it's the label's first incursion into Europe, as the brand aims to gauge its reception on the continent before expanding into other markets or investing in a permanent location in the French capital.
Established in 2010 in the New York apartment of the brand's designer and founder, Michelle Watson, Michi has attempted to carve a niche out for itself in the activewear segment, positioning itself between a technical, sporty aesthetic and streetwear. With design experience at brands such as Donna Karan, Kate Spade and RLX Ralph Lauren, and qualifications from Parsons School of Design and the Richard Ivey School of Business, the brand's founder decided to combine her skills with her passion for sport and launch a brand offering products designed and manufactured in Canada that would meet the "real needs of women who practise a range of sports."
Explaining the brand's style, the designer told FashionNetwork.com that she wanted to "apply an haute-couture aesthetic to sportswear through innovative use of inlays on the fabrics and sports bras with adjustable straps". All of this is designed and produced in line with the company's philosophy of inclusivity and sustainability (pieces are made in a women's factory where employees work flexible hours) which never loses sight of the importance of the performance of the brand's sportswear. "The pieces are made from stretchy nylon fabrics which have sweat-wicking properties and dry very quickly, all of which have been selected as part of an ethical manufacturing commitment", Watson highlighted. The colour of the pieces is another of the brand's main focuses, as pointed out by the designer: "I've always been fascinated by colour psychology and its influence on performance in sporting activities. I want the pieces to give women the energy they need to run a marathon or to relax during a yoga session."
Nonetheless, Michi's founder's intention is ultimately to blur the boundaries between the gym and the street. "The brand was born from the desire to reduce the distance between functional sportswear pieces and streetwear. It's something which has always been part of the style of New York women, mixing sports pieces with jeans and leggings transformed into items of streetwear. Now my goal is to show Parisian women that it's possible too!" commented Watson with a wry laugh, safe in the knowledge that her chic sportswear aesthetic already has some pretty influential adherents in the form of celebrities such as Taylor Swift, Gigi Hadid and model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley.
For the moment, Canada and the United States continue to be at the heart of the brand's business strategy, not least because these markets are where 70% of its consumers are to be found, along with the majority of its points of sale. Michi also distributes its products internationally online and through distributors such as Neiman Marcus, Shopbop, Carbon38 and Thai company Chi. The brand also has points of sale in Hong Kong and Taiwan. In Europe, Michelle Watson's brand is already present in multibrand stores The Sports Edit and Skulpt in London and Dublin, respectively. Its first Parisian incursion is part of a strategy to take the measure of the brand's potential on the European market, where it is hoping to orchestrate a progressive introduction.
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