As regular followers of Japanese fashion can attest, the industry can be seen as somewhat flirtatious, dallying with new debutantes, another sister brand, another collaboration, another short-term “limited shop” or another retail concept that makes the news but doesn’t really change the game.
It is tempting to focus on the frippery, even if we are aware that the clothes we deck ourselves in are on a fundamental level more similar than different as we drift from season to season. So why not take a moment to meditate on the retail and marketing concepts that have subtly changed our relationship with fashion?
There have been shifts exemplified by the likes of shopping mall Parco’s unexpectedly innovative new Parco_ya store, which opened in Tokyo’s Ueno district on Nov. 4. It might not have had the fanfare of an entry like the city’s new high-end Ginza Six building, but it marked a fundamental departure for Parco’s series of stores that are resolutely self-defined as “fashion buildings.” Despiteits cool underscore, Parco_ya is surprisingly traditional, or rather “neo-traditional,” given that Edo Period establishments couldn’t possibly have been quite as clean or glassy. Still, judging from the kamon-like (crest) logo to the bevy of traditional washoku cuisine eateries — a far cry from the allusions to the West favored by the Shibuya flagship — Japanese tradition is on-trend, even at a trailblazer like Parco.
It is easy to think of the accessibility of fast fashion as being the zeitgeist of today’s fashion market, but there is a parallel democratization of the industry at work: the role of retailer has also opened to individuals.
The smattering of Tokyo’s flea markets may have gradually become less visible — when you walk past Omotesando Hills, you are walking through the graveyard of youth markets lost — but in its place is the overwhelming success of Yahoo! Auctions and more specialised marketplaces such as Rakuten’s FRIL. These make up a revolution in second-hand shopping, albeit invisible to those who don’t use them.
Newcomer to the market is Kante, from used-goods market giant Komehyo, which launched on Nov. 7. Kante aims to reduce consumer’s fear of unreliable online sellers and fake items by acting as a middleman. For a percentage of the listing price, it offers to take receipt of sellers’ items and assess the goods’ authenticity before passing them on to purchasers. Providing this service for items with a minimum listing price of ¥10,000, there is a characteristically Japanese focus on the high end, and Kante might well appeal to those who want a bargain without the risk of getting burned.
Treasures from the archive
If the vintage-fashion boom driven by boutique styling characterized the late 2000s, shopping collection “archives” by brands, offering consumers classics, is the progression of today. We have seen a couple of these over the past couple of months, and they seem to be popular enough to draw a solid audience of connoisseurs who are most likely already trawling the web on a daily basis for specific designer pieces. The latest archive shop is an Yves Saint Laurent retrospective at upscale Aoyama vintage boutique Laila Vintage, which takes place from Nov. 23 to Dec. 3. The caliber of the haute couture pieces from the 1960s through ’90s is high and being able to see the product means there is far less risk involved than with an internet sale. Expect this to be well picked over not long after the doors open.
Even if almost every Japanese station stop is home to a well-established and often rather worn-down tailors or two, there still seems to be room in the market for new entries.
Salon du reDesign modestly bills itself as “the next generation of tailors.” A big hit in the hip Horie district of Osaka, the concept tailors has now arrived in Ginza, boasting a staff trained in design as well as repair. Its members are capable of refashioning long-loved garments, while clients get to snack on coffee and pastries in the cafe area.
A little gimmicky, yes. But with industry-quality machines for rent to all and prices in line with a local establishments, Salon du reDesign may just be the future face of Japanese tailors.