A pleasant evening turned elaborate when Helga invited the Meersmans, Ine Verhardt, and her partner to dinner at her home five years ago. Commercial– Project. Both women agreed: Women don’t have a chic laptop bag. All bag brands seemed to target the male gender. A gap in the market, both thought Commercial– Women.
So she designed a bag that was chic and luxurious on the outside, but fully equipped on the inside. It has twelve compartments including a special compartment for a laptop. Kai is born and blows out five candles this year. FashionUnited has a virtual cup of coffee with Meersmans and Verhaert to talk about the past five years, focus on the US market and a new product:
*Where is Kai now?*
“When we started Kaai, we immediately opened our own store in Antwerp and launched a webshop. Since we were launching a new brand, Kaai had to get to know the customer, so a point of sale was important for us. Also, consumers had to get to know us so that it would be easier Can give feedback. Feedback is very important and valuable, especially in the beginning. We used it in subsequent packages.
“Thanks to our first store, we quickly ended up with Belgian retailers. We think this is related to the idea of ’Belgian brand meets Belgian people’. You still have an advantage over others. [buitenlandse, red.] Note.”
“Things are exciting in 2020. Then came the corona crisis, but luckily we didn’t have any employees other than the two of us, and the webshop was already fully functional. We benefited a lot from this.”
“In the following years, we opened a second store in the Brussels King’s Gallery and the Kaai team grew from two employees to a total of ten. In addition, we started online marketing abroad such as the Netherlands, Germany and the UK. It quickly caught on in the Netherlands, and we received more orders from the UK. Kaai De Bijenkorf since 2022 is available in, and we are very proud of it. We are surrounded by bags from Louis Vuitton, Balenciaga and Prada, which is a dream come true. In Germany, we work with the online marketplace Breuninger, which is also going well. And we have nothing to complain about in the UK.
“When the online marketing started to take off, we suddenly noticed that we were getting some US orders. We found out that we were included in the ‘Top 15 Best Work Bags’ in Online Luxury Magazine. It was already within us. Commercial– Wrote a plan to go to America one day, but not so soon. That was our first introduction to this huge market.
*Care to share a financial update?*
“Unfortunately we don’t share that. We can report that Kai will be profitable from year three. We think that’s too fast for a new brand in the market.
Expansion into the US market is now on the agenda. What can we expect?
“We have invested a lot in the US market in recent years. Since September we have also been working with one Business developerBecause we want to strengthen our presence in this market both physically and online.
“We are currently at a retailer on Broadway [een weg in New
York, red.]. But the point is: no one who works in a multi-brand store can tell a hundred percent of the story. So, we decided to do trunk shows in America. These are events where female customers and retailers are invited to view our bags. Retailers should definitely sell like-minded brands so that they connect with our target group.
“Our focus is mainly on big cities: New York, Chicago, Washington, Los Angeles. That’s where the working women are. We’re trying to gradually introduce American customers to Kaai. In the next two years, we’ll mainly focus on building brand awareness and looking for the right multi-brand stores. Maybe A few small boutiques. Then we definitely want to go to Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom. We hope to add one of these prestigious department stores to our list of international distribution points.
“A few weeks ago we launched a separate American webshop. The American customer has a different profile than the European customer. We find that Americans dive much deeper into the story behind it.
Work bags So we paid more attention to the US website for these bags. We observe that this is what the customer in the US is looking for. Additionally, we share more content here about US events organized by us so that the content is more personalized for the US customer.
Are there more expansion plans outside the US on the agenda?
“We only started with Breuninger in Germany, so we hope that the physical points of sale will follow soon. In addition, next year we will participate in trade fairs again, because it has been stalled due to Covid. Now we think the time has come to participate in fairs again. We are now working on CIFF, because many Dutch And we hear that German customers are also going there. In addition, we will definitely be at the Tranoi exhibition in Paris. This way we will automatically meet new international customers.
Any plans to open more kai shops?
“In 2018 we wrote to ourselves businessesWe plan to open a store in Amsterdam, Paris and London. Covid has changed that plan. After that we started focusing on online market. But online marketing is very expensive, and the online retail landscape is expensive. Now that the Corona crisis is over, we old hands in the fashion industry are seeing the value of physical stores and thinking about opening more stores. There is no better customer experience than your own store. A flagship store is still a beautiful and strong symbol. In addition, Kai Store serves as a showroom for wholesalers. They want to hold the product and see the color and texture.
What can kai enthusiasts expect from the pack brand in the future?
“In November, fruiting begins Mother’s bag, a fashionable diaper bag. We found the pie world so boring that we’re going to change that. This bag is our first bag made of fabric, so not leather. The
Mother’s bag The bag is certainly equipped with various compartments that keep it organized. It will be released in four colors – beige, khaki, terracotta and black – and will be available for 265 euros.
“We are currently busy reaching out to children’s fashion retailers. They are very enthusiastic.
“We also had the idea for a long time Travel lightCollection in the market. We also like to make the bags for this collection from fabric instead of leather. Now we have it Mother’s bag
We have designed and we have been able to gain a lot of knowledge about fabrics, so who knows, this collection may follow soon.
What is the final kai dream?
“The dream is to be able to create that strong sense of community in all the other countries where Kai is active, just like in Belgium. It is definitely a dream to have a webshop, a flagship store everywhere and to see Kai in the most prominent department stores around the world.
“Passionate analyst. Thinker. Devoted twitter evangelist. Wannabe music specialist.”