Style & Design

Japan's fashion brands look to meet new consumer standards

by Samuel Thomas

Contributing Writer

As the festive season encourages consumers to splash out and treat themselves, there’s both good and bad news in the fashion industry.

Fast-fashion firsts

Sorry to be the Christmas grinch, but at this time of the year, the issue of sustainability in fashion rears its ugly head more than ever. With the gift-giving and clearance-sale season coming one after the other, this is when fashion brands delight in extra sales, while some consumers feel pangs of shameful decadence and wonder if there aren’t more options to help them be more responsible at such times of rampant consumption.

Interestingly, a lot of the worst offenders in promoting disposable fashion have also become leaders in recycling schemes — their way of trying to ensure that last month’s trends can still be put to good use. Following their example, smaller brands are also starting to get on board, to the point where there are really no excuses for just throwing any garment away.

Fast fashion concerns: Retailer H&M's garment collection program offers to take any brand of clothing for recycling. | H&M
Fast fashion concerns: Retailer H&M’s garment collection program offers to take any brand of clothing for recycling. | H&M

Big chains Zara, H&M and Right-on will take pretty much any textile — not just their own items — in their recycling schemes, while the likes of Uniqlo and Muji are close behind, currently accepting only their own brands. That doesn’t include bags and shoes, but at least the companies are heading in the right direction.

There are also targeted recycling drives in motion, like that of Urban Research’s Green Down Project, which collects any feather down product. Wacoal, too, is on the case with unwanted bras.

It is all about a shift in consciousness, and with all that extra wardrobe space for consumers, brands must hope that better corporate social responsibility on their part will encourage their fans to keep buying with less guilt.

Encouraging us to buy less in general, though — that may be a problem to solve another year.

Peach John gets real

Barbie of the Japanese comedy duo Fall in Love, seems an unlikely choice to be the face of lingerie brand Peach John’s very first collaboration with a TV personality. She is hardly the stick-thin model of her doll namesake, or the body type that usually shows up in Peach John campaigns.

PEACH JOHN
PEACH JOHN

Barbie’s bold unashamed sexuality, however, has made her a social media icon for a new generation of Japanese women who relate to her body positivity message, which is delivered without sanctimonious politics thanks to her self-deprecating humor. Seeing the potential to reach a different kind of audience, Peach John has produced a range of lingerie under Barbie’s supervision, which will be rolled out nationwide in early February next year.

Apparently more than two years in the making, this lineup will mark the first time Peach John has ventured up to 90 centimeters in bust size. The amount of development that was needed to adapt popular lingerie designs to, for want of a better word, normal and more commonplace body types just goes to show how restrictive the world of lingerie has been up until now.

Happy neo year

The rumors of the death of Tokyo youth street fashion tribes have been greatly exaggerated, though it did get a little bit tricky to sum up looks succinctly with a definitive label during the late ’00s.

A Spinns promotional image and its collaboration with virtual influencer Aoi Prism. | SPINNS
A Spinns promotional image and its collaboration with virtual influencer Aoi Prism. | SPINNS

Add to that the fact more kids are largely rejecting one label and opting for 10 hashtags of several descriptions, and you have a recipe for confusion. Anyone wanting to stay in touch with ephemeral youth trends, however, could do a lot worse than looking to fast fashion retailer Spinns. It nailed the “otaku culture meets wayward youth” look with its 2.5D branding, and now it’s advocating what it calls Neo Gal (Neo Shibuya Center-gai), a nostalgic take on late ’90s- and early ’00s- inspired looks that Tokyo street kids are doing right now.

All this is encapsulated in a collaboration with virtual influencer Aoi Prism. The CG social media icon’s world view, spliced with ’90s neon-tinted influences, is about as current as it gets, albeit with one foot firmly in a more optimistic past.

If you are young enough to rock the Shibuya Center-gai look, then you can shop for it, appropriately, online.

bit.ly/aoispinns

It’s not fake news

On Dec. 15, an Instagram post shocked fans of Fake Tokyo — one of the most influential Tokyo boutiques of the past decade — when it announced the upcoming end of its 13-year history.

A look-book shot of Balmung, one of the avant-garde brands that was stocked by Fake Tokyo. | BALMUNG
A look-book shot of Balmung, one of the avant-garde brands that was stocked by Fake Tokyo. | BALMUNG

The metaphorically and literally underground boutique began life in a basement in Shinjuku’s Ni-chome district to become the launchpad of international talents such as Zoo Morikawa’s Christian Dada; the king and queen of Tokyo fashion week, DressedUndressed’s Takeshi Kitazawa and Emiko Sato; and a whole host of other talents.

The store graduated from Shinjuku to a cool location tucked away behind Shibuya’s Center-gai, and in the late 2010s it was pretty much the only place in Tokyo that would give rack space to the now celebrated new wave of Tokyo avant-garde, such as Balmung and Bodysong. It was also an entry point to the Japanese market for too many international brands to mention.

The loss of Fake Tokyo, and its two sub stores Candy and Sister, which were also in Shibuya, leaves a gaping hole in the Tokyo fashion scene as more and more underground brands look to online methods to make their entry to the market.