Japan’s Premium Pricing Problem

Coach Kristin Leather Hobo Bag | Source: Coach

TOKYO, Japan — In the United States, the Coach Kristin Leather Hobo bag retails for $298. In Japan, the same bag costs $711 (¥59,850). This disparity in pricing is not unique to Coach. Premium and luxury fashion brands based outside Japan have long charged Japanese consumers a significantly higher price than in other markets for the same goods. But today, due to a strong yen and greater visibility of global pricing thanks to the

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In Tokyo, Abercrombie Misses Its Mark

Abercrombie & Fitch, Ginza | Source: Fashionsnap.com

TOKYO, Japan — After several years of “will they or won’t they” speculation, American casual fashion retailer Abercrombie & Fitch finally opened its first retail store in Japan this past December. The 11-story shop in Tokyo’s upscale Ginza neighbourhood is just steps away from Uniqlo’s flagship store and Swedish fast fashion brand H&M. As with every big retail opening in Tokyo, the first day of sales saw long lines of

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Uniqlo | A Feel-Good Commodity

The colours of Uniqlo | Source: Uniqlo

TOKYO, Japan — For the last two years, the inverted black triangle — Japan’s version of the minus sign — has infected monthly earnings reports at most of the nation’s retail chains. The global recession has been almost universally bad for the apparel market. Japanese customers are just not spending on fashion like they used to. There’s one exception, of course: Uniqlo.  For the fiscal year ending in August 2009,

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Friday Column | Japanese Luxury Fatigue

Prada flagship store in Omotesando, Tokyo

LONDON, United Kingdom — The scariest news I have recently read about luxury was in Tuesday’s Financial Times. The Japanese, it seems, have stopped buying luxury goods. Luxury imports in Japan were down 10 percent and sales of LVMH in the country were down 18 percent in the first quarter. And no, it’s not just the recession. “This is not a blip. This is a long-term shift in the market,” Brian Salsberg, the

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Japan Fashion Week | Not prime time

Somarta A/W 09, courtesy of Coutorture

TOKYO, Japan — Japan Fashion Week (JFW) is nearing its end, but has anyone really noticed that it started? While the entire cities of Paris, Milan, and New York seem to get completely swept up in the glamour of their respective fashion weeks, the average Tokyo citizen is most likely unaware that Japan Fashion Week is currently happening. This is very odd, considering that Tokyo is obsessed with designer fashion to an extent seen

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Uniqlo | Reigning Supreme

Photo by Sean Wood, courtesy of MEKAS

TOKYO, Japan — 2008 turned out to be an incredibly successful year for Uniqlo — and Uniqlo alone. The Japanese media can no longer mention the mass retailer without using the word hitorigachi — meaning “sole winner” or “to reign supreme.” In a toxic retail environment, where most major apparel chains experienced 10-15 percent declines in same-store sales for December, Uniqlo finished the year up 10.3

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Q&A | The lowdown on H&M Comme des Garçons

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Comme des Garçons for H&M"][/caption] TOKYO, Japan - Back in September, H&M experienced one of the most successful Japanese market entries in recent history, with its first store in Ginza drawing incredible mass media coverage and never-ending lines. Now two months later, H&M will open its next Japanese store on November 8 in the youth fashion district of Harajuku. Japanese customers lucky enough to make it through the long queue on Saturday morning will be the first worldwide to be able to buy the latest limited-edition guest-collaboration line: H & M COMME des GARÇONS. For the rest of the world, H&M Comme des Garçons will debut on November 13 in more than 200 H&M stores around…

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H&M | Swedish fast fashion finally comes to Japan

TOKYO, Japan - After two years of intense rumours and breathless anticipation, Swedish fast fashion giant H&M finally opened its first Tokyo store on September 13 in the ritzy neighborhood of Ginza, right down the street from competitors Zara and Uniqlo. When the staff cut the ribbon at 11 a.m., somewhere between 3,000 and 5,000 Japanese customers (mostly young women) waited in line for their chance to visit the 1,000 square-metre, four-story retail space. Now, twelve days later, the lines continue to stay long, with around 8,000 people visiting the store daily. An incredible success? Although these long lines may help pay back the reported ¥2 billion launch expenditures, a little perspective is required to know what it all means.…

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Japan Fashion Week | Under the radar

TOKYO, Japan - Just before the fashion world turned its laser focus on New York, a lesser known semi-annual week of fashion shows in Tokyo failed to garner much attention. Not surprisingly then, a key activity during Japan Fashion Week is listening to other people grumble about Japan Fashion Week. Although Tokyo is one of the world's most important fashion cities, overflowing with amazing daily dressers, avant-garde masters, and street fashion innovation, the organized collection week has yet to muster up a global impact on par with Paris, Milan, or New York. And the problem is not just international reception: most of the cooler domestic Japanese brands aren't even on board. Long ago, there was a very loose event called…

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Everybody’s Talking About | Comme des Garcons for H&M

TOKYO, Japan and STOCKHOLM, Sweden - Some H&M collaborations of the past (Roberto Cavalli, Viktor & Rolf) were more memorable for the pre-launch buzz and subsequent hysteria around the world than they were for the clothes themselves. So ever since Rei Kawakubo announced her upcoming Comme des Garcons collection for H&M, fashionistas have been wondering whether Kawakubo will bring some of the best of Japanese avant-garde fashion to the masses without diluting her signature style. Well the wait is almost over. W Magazine wrote about the collaboration in its September issue and on Friday, Fashionista.com posted the first photos of the complete collection. In typical lightening speed, the blogosphere has been passing judgment and at first glance, it seems many…

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No Ametora | Why the Neo-Trad Trend Failed to Catch on in Japan

TOKYO, Japan - The crazy kids in Tokyo’s  Harajuku neighborhood often give outsiders an impression that Japanese fashion trends appear organically on the street without any industry prodding. In truth, Japanese fashion magazines still retain an uncanny ability to set seasonal styles on a near-mechanical schedule. Due to industry, media, and consumer coordination unlike anywhere else in the world, Japanese trends change on a dime at the beginning of a season, exactly in the ways delineated by magazines. This system can be awe-inspiring when things go as Japan’s fashion machine intends, but once in a while, the top cannot convince consumers to buy into the template. The most recent example is last year's push for "American traditional” menswear (a la…

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Japanese Women | From Luxury to Yuru-Nachu

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Photos courtesy of Sean Wood/Mekas"][/caption] TOKYO, Japan - So far, 2008 has been a foreboding year for the European luxury houses in Japan. The sub-prime mortgage crisis has reduced credit lines, rising food prices have decimated discretionary spending, and lower stock prices have convinced the New Rich they aren't so rich after all. Although the Japanese super rich seem unfettered, aspirational customers are staying home and saving their meager incomes for an uncertain future. With wages weaker than ever, the average female 25 year-old (in a salary hierarchy based on age, with an exclusive "management track" decided at time of entry to the company) makes barely enough to pay rent let alone make credit card payments…

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Dunhill Ginza | Welcome home

TOKYO, Japan - "Welcome home." With those words Jun Morimoto, CEO of Alfred Dunhill in Japan, warmly ushered me into the new Alfred Dunhill flagship in Tokyo's Ginza district, where it rubs shoulders with the impressive architecture of some of the world's most famous luxury brands. But all is not rosy in Tokyo's legendary luxuryland, with reports that sales for some international luxury brands in Japan are down as much as 20% versus last year. As Morimoto-san showed me around the store, the first of a few Dunhill 'Home' flagships which will be opening around the world, he also demonstrated how brands like Dunhill are leading the way in adapting their stores and product offering to meet the evolving expectations…

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