TOKYO, Japan - While younger Japanese customers may be veering towards local brands that are in tune with prevailing fashion trends, others are looking for something altogether different. They don't care about trends. Their closets are already full. They have bought countless branded luxury items over the years. So, if they are going to spend their money on anything, it has to be perfect.
That's where my favourite Japanese tailor comes in. ICHO is a small, family-run business with a spiritual figurehead and designer in the form of Toru Icho, who was born in 1947 in Kyoto, the historical home of some of Japan's best luxury artisans. His son, Mits and daughter-in-law Satoko work full-time to translate Toru's vision into a bonafide business. This is good old-fashioned luxury.
At ICHO, they know each of their clients by name and over the years they have built up a deep understanding of their tastes and preferences. Satoko says that some ICHO customers give them carte blanche to design one-of-kind garments for them, sight unseen. This reminds me instantly of a conversation I had with Anne-Marie Colban of Charvet, another family-run luxury business focusing on made-to-measure garments.
But ICHO takes things one step further. Everything is tailored to the customer in every way imaginable, not just the designs. Using hundred-year old looms, ICHO weaves fabrics specifically for certain customers. Then, using a small network of craftsmen, ICHO closely directs the production of the clothes, right down to the last tailored detail. They rarely make the same garment twice.
Of course, this means that ICHO's prices aren't cheap. But then again, given the level of quality and experience built into every ICHO garment, they aren't expensive either and feel like a much better value than what's on offer around the corner on the main shopping streets of Aoyama.
And, unlike the quiet luxury flagships in Ginza and Omotesando, business is booming at ICHO. One famous Japanese actress has declared she won't wear anything but ICHO and has a standing order for as many pieces as they can produce. London leather goods designer Bill Amberg also swears by ICHO and even invited Satoko and Mits to stay over at his place on their last trip to London. With each customer, the closeness of the relationship is the same.
A few weeks ago, after a night out with Diane Pernet in London, she closed off the evening mysteriously by saying to me: "By the way, you've found your designer." I asked her what she meant and she pointed to the perfectly fitting, black boiled-cashmere ICHO blazer I was wearing. Diane couldn't have been more right. ICHO is my designer...but I'm not the only one who can say that.
ICHO video from men.style.com