Setting up shop in the North Loop, or any hip, gentrified urban neighborhood like it—every metropolitan area has one—is a brand statement. It says we care about reviving the city. We’re a little bit daring. We’re influencers, and want to be associated with other trendsetters.
Basically, it’s the opposite of going to the mall.
So it was interesting to see Kit and Ace, Canada’s rapidly growing luxury lifestyle brand, open at Mall of America last week—just six months after very consciously making its Twin Cities debut in the North Loop. The winsome millennials that work at Kit and Ace and embody the brand seem more likely to blow a paycheck on brunch at Spoon and Stable than to be caught scarfing Cinnabon.
Kit and Ace, created by the wife and son of lululemon founder Chip Wilson, has opened more than two-dozen stores around the country this year. There are also nine in Canada, five in Australia, and two in London plus eight pop-ups worldwide, including Tokyo. Similar to Shinola and Warby Parker— two other hot brands that chose the North Loop as their Twin Cities home—Kit and Ace been strategically selecting U.S. locations in the coolest neighborhoods, even if it means settling for a second floor space like the one Kit and Ace has on Washington Avenue.
But while creating a compelling brand story—complete with art shows, chef-driven dinner parties and a pretty Instagram feed—can help in connecting with customers, you’ve got to sell a whole lot of shirts to actually pay for brunch. And the Mall of America, with its 42 million annual visitors, is the place to do that. What North Loop is to establishing coolness, MOA is to elevating brand recognition. Kit and Ace will soon open a store at Canada’s version of the megamall, West Edmonton Mall, which, like MOA, is owned by the Ghermezian family.
At MOA, Kit and Ace feels more like an honest to goodness store and less like the branding experience that is the North Loop showroom (there's a bed in the North Loop store). But I’m impressed by how they’ve stayed true to the brand, even within the confines of the mall.
It starts with the entrance: A textured, creamy wall bordered in shiny copper. The copper elements continue throughout the store, from hangers to lighting. Front and center is a large, square whitewashed ash and powder coated steel table with copper trim. Like most of the store furnishings, it was made locally by Constructed Matter. Communal tables are a Kit and Ace signature. I can’t wait to see MOA shoppers hunker down with their pretzels and cheese. The staff says bring it on.
The coordinating cooper-plated steel and whitewashed birch tables are by St. Paul-based NEU Design. The eye catching pendant lights are by Tandem Made. And note the photography and art throughout the store, also by local artists.
A mall store is never going to come close to the character of the North Loop, with its historic buildings, lofted ceilings, brick walls and proximity to Sex World. But the mall version of Kit and Ace offers something that might be worth the trade off: a lot more merchandise.
The assortment for women and men is evolving from the initial collection, which showcased Kit and Ace’s proprietary washable cashmere, but was limited primarily to t-shirts and hoodies. Pants have become a sweet spot for this brand, which aims to fill that space between gym clothes and dressing up. Start by trying the Mulberry pant—made of a thick, soft fabric blend, they’re comfortable enough for travel, but polished enough for the office, with a high waist, front darts and faux welt pockets in back. The one bummer is that they only go up to size 10, currently.
Trying on the Mulberry pant and Wave tee at Kit and Ace, Mall of America.
The Bartlett trousers have a bit too much crotch material for my eye (though I will likely revisit), but I’m crazy about the copper zipper details at the ankle and waist. That carries through to several sweaters and jackets as well. I'm a fan of the effortlessly chic Olivia wrap, and the mixed fabric jackets. So far, the tops I’ve tried cling in the wrong places—at least on me. But I’ll keep trying, because that cashmere feels so good, and I’m impressed that Kit and Ace is trying push the envelope—both by city, and suburb.
Kit and Ace at Mall of America is on the first floor, south side, near Burberry. The closest parking is right outside of L.L. Bean.