Fung Group invests in Japanese brand distribution

Feb 15

Fung Group has an important stake in the Japanese apparel industry through its ownership of Kanematsu Textile, focused on supply services and some brand distribution rather than develop its own brands. From January a name change signifies a shift in thinking that will see the Japanese subsidiary develop into a major brand distributor of both its own labels and overseas brands too.

Fung Group changed the name of its Japanese subsidiary in January to mark a new emphasis on brand development and distribution. Fung acquired the entire stock of Kanematsu Textile in 2007, a Japanese textile to apparel trading firm with a long and illustrious history going back to 1889. The group now also includes Fenix International, a major producer of knitwear as well as other garments.

In January, the company was renamed Forward Apparel Company. The name was chosen to emphasise the company‘s shift from textiles to apparel production, and in particular the new focus on developing apparel brands of its own, as well as acting as an import-distributor of overseas brands.

Fung Group is one of the world‘s largest and most successful consumer goods sourcing and retail businesses with 45,000 employees and offices in 40 countries, all of which mean Forward Apparel has access to unparalleled sourcing options to help develop its brands, and to support the overseas brands it distributes with additional lines specifically for the Japanese market.

The first three brands to be launched are Erewhon, StayA and StayC, all of which will start from 2015/16 A/W. Forward Apparel has hired external designers to manage brand development but with production through Fung Group. It is hoping for sales of ¥1.5 billion for the three brands in the first year.

At the same time as developing its own brands, Forward Apparel will expand its role as a distributor for European and US brands. From this year, it will begin distribution of US skiwear brand Spider and Australian sports brand, 2XU. It is expected to announce other signings shortly.

The trading firm is already distributor of a number of outdoor and fashion labels. These include Yakpak for which Forward Apparel signed a distribution and license deal in 2013. Its other outdoor brands include Forsake and sports innerwear brand Naklin. Forward Apparel also began distribution of British fashion label Norman Hartnell from Autumn 2013. The first fashion designer to receive a knighthood, Hartnell was dressmaker to the Queen of England from 1940. The brand is now owned by Fung Group.