Launched in 2002, Maison Kitsuné has come to represent a concept that so many people have tried to copy since: the intersection of fashion, music and design. A music label, a design brand and a concept store, Maison Kitsuné has become a bit of an icon here in Paris, with a list of notable artists attached like Housse de Racket and Two Door Cinema Club. The brand's co-founder, Gildas Loaëc, used to work with Daft Punk. His partner Masaya Kuroki is an architect turned fashion man, and has expanded the brand to global status, with boutiques in Paris, New York City and Tokyo.
With fashion and music locked in, it was no surprise that the brand turned to coffee. In 2013, Maison Kitsuné opened its cafe in Tokyo, and in earlier this year, Paris got its own version.
Sitting underneath the arcade of Palais Royal (once the personal residence of Cardinal Richelieu), just steps from the Louvre, the modern Cafe Kitsuné finds itself in the midst of architecture reminiscent of more opulent times. This is a background of many a postcard and tourist photo. The garden space in the middle of Palais Royal, with its statues and meticulously groomed trees, is iconically Parisian. But behind the massive stone columns lies the sleek cafe space, the perfect example of the blending of new and old, a marriage that Paris is coming to master.
The actual Maison Kitsuné boutique isn’t far away, but here you get a small dose of the brand in the form of things like fox keychains (a nod to the meaning of kitsuné, the Japanese word) and branded iPhone cases. The idea is coffee “à l’Italien” meaning a small space that fits a coffee bar, a few baristas, and a wall of Maison Kitsuné accoutrement, vinyl albums and “Parisien” baseball caps (just 45€).
Customers are invited to down an espresso at the bar (Italian style), or they can take their drinks to go. Because it’s small, the space fills up fast, but the baristas work quickly, and on this day when the sun is shining bright I’m the only customer to stick around at the counter; everyone else wants their coffee à emporter. While to-go coffee cups have long been a standard of American coffee shops, it’s a modern infusion into European cultures, a sign of Maison Kitsuné’s cosmopolitan appeal. That being said, walk in here with your reusable mug and you might get some odd looks.
What you’re drinking is a special Cafe Kitsuné roast, created specifically for the cafe by Workshop Coffee in London. The barista tells me to look for notes of chocolate and toasted hazelnuts, but my shot still held a lovely bit of acidulé at the end. Espresso is the name of the game here, and the cafe filtre, that trendy new darling of a drink for the Parisian coffee-loving crowd, is nowhere to be found on Kitsuné's menu. You can, however, order an Americano, a popular option with those stopping in for a coffee to go.
For the non-coffee drinkers there are juices on hand from local operation Bob’s Cold Press, and yes, you can get a green juice with kale. Pastries are from Noglu, a bakery devoted to gluten-free goods, practically an anomaly in a town known for croissants and baguettes. The shortbread is imprinted, simply, “Kitsuné”.
Because if you've already got the Kitsuné iPhone case, the hat, and a shirt with the fox logo, why should your pastry be left out of the lifestyle?