Born in Japan, Takanao Muramatsu graduated university and first worked for a publishing company where he started taking interest in the American culture. In 1984 he started a young and casual fashion retail store, and established Harajuku Project, LTD in Tokyo the following year. After a few years in 1989, he expanded to Paris and established H.P.FRANCE SARL. In 2001, Muramatsu took the opportunity to launch destination New York, a specialty boutique in the Meatpacking district which offered everything from fashion and arts to interior goods. He also established H.P.FRANCE NY, a local office in NY.
‘Alternative’ is the keyword that defines the business scope of H.P.FRANCE. It is a concept that encompasses the business strategy, the mindset, and what the company represent.
“Creating a brand new consumer market based on alternative values”
On a trip to Paris in 1989, I saw rings made of materials such as glass and wire, and handbags that were not made to contain anything. Until then, the jewelry market determined the value of rings based on diamond size or the weight and purity of the gold that was used. The rings and handbags I saw on my trip were not low-priced, as they were valued for their trendiness, beauty and creativity (of both the designer and those who would eventually purchase). The items were designed with ‘alternative’ forms of value such as ‘trend’ and ‘beauty’ in mind. Unlike the traditional conception that handbags needed to be durable, functional, and capable of holding items inside them, these items proposed a new style and sense of value – a value determined entirely by how the women who chose the pieces styled them.
I immediately brought the pieces back to Japan to sell them at our directly-managed shops and through wholesale. Initially, there were mixed opinions even within our company, but the opinion-leaders who had a high sense of fashion such as magazine editors and stylists, soon became our consumers and really appreciated our selection of products. 20 years ago, there was no consumer market for products merely valued by creativity, and it was not until 10 years later in 1999 that our business started booming.
In those 10 years, I put all efforts in engaging the press. We never used ads or celebrity power. It was all about seeking publicity. Through magazine articles and word-of-mouth, we were able to create a strong consumer market based on new values. The creation of this new consumer market became the foundation of our H.P.FRANCE company brand.