The famous New York streetwear brand has just opened its doors in Paris! For the occasion, we have decided to briefly review the history of the brand and to evoke the rise of its — sometimes controversial — creator Ronnie Fieg.
Made in America
Impossible to talk about Kith without mentioning Ronnie Fieg, the founder of the brand. A Jew from Queens, he worked for several years in the sneaker store of his uncle David Z, who saw many hip hop stars in the 90s and 90s.
In 2007, he had the opportunity to work with Asics to relaunch the Gel-Lyte III, a model that had fallen into oblivion. Thanks to an article in the Wall Street Journal, he managed to create the buzz around his collaboration and sell all the pairs in record time. Following this victory, his uncle gave him more autonomy within the store: Ronnie became responsible for partnerships and created his own department within the David Z store with his creations.
But Ronnie dreams bigger and, in 2011, he opens his own boutique in Brooklyn and Manhattan: KITH.
King of collabs
The main reason for Kith’s success? Probably its collaborations of all kinds. Ronnie Fieg has a flair for updating models that are sometimes completely out of fashion — as he did with Asics — and knows how to seize opportunities at the right time: thus, in 2018, for the opening of the Kith boutique in Los Angeles, he collaborated with NBA star Lebron James and opened his doors on the day of the All-Star Game, a game during which Lebron was crowned MVP!
In addition to offering clothing and sneakers from well-known brands (Fear of God, Nike, John Elliott), Kith also offers its own premium streetwear pieces and collaborates with brands as varied as Versace, Coca-Cola, Adidas and Tommy Hilfiger. This versatility allows Kith to work with both mainstream and high-end brands.
It is with a Nike Air Force 1 in the colors of the French flag that Kith chose to celebrate its opening in Paris. An ultra-limited model already seen at the feet of Kylian Mbappé.
A high-end concept-store…
Kith’s other main asset is its so-called “vertical” strategy. In short, like brands like Apple or Nespresso, Kith products can only be purchased in Kith stores, with rare exceptions.
This upscale approach can also be found inside the stores, particularly in the brand new boutique that just opened in Paris: located on three levels of the luxurious Pershing Hall Hotel just a stone’s throw from the Champs-Élysées, it offers a restaurant space (the New York chain Sadelle’s specialized in brunch), as well as a cereal and ice cream bar called “Kith Treats”.
As for the famous Air Force 1 Paris, it is presented in a decor reproducing the interior of an airplane cabin.
In short, a place designed for Instagram, more likely to attract a rather wealthy and international clientele than a traditional streetwear shop. In the same way as the (now closed) Colette boutique, Kith wishes to offer an experience rather than a simple point of sale.
… that raises criticism
But this elitist approach also has its limits. On the one hand, Ronnie Fieg is sometimes accused of opportunism or even cultural appropriation by part of the sneakers and hip-hop community (Joe Budden in the lead).
On the other hand, one may also wonder if this choice to open such a glitzy boutique in the heart of the Parisian Golden Triangle is not yet another symbol of the galloping gentrification of street culture.
In the midst of a global pandemic, while access to the store is currently only available by drawing lots, and the Air Force 1 Kith x Paris is already trading for more than $1000 on StockX, we can only note that Kith is fully committed to this race towards elitism without really trying to stop it.
That being said, let’s note that Kith donated $50,000 in 2020 to an association fighting against precarious health conditions, in the midst of the coronavirus crisis. Like what, streetwear also knows how to sometimes show solidarity.