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Selling hope

With uncertain times still ahead, it has been a while since anything has really captured the public’s imagination for style. Collections seem to either ignore the mood of the moment or put a fake smile on it, rather than confronting it.

Point of sale: Sogo & Seibu’s new year campaign acknowledges 2020’s dismal sales, but gives heartfelt thanks to those customers who patronized the department store. | SOGO & SEIBU CO., LTD.
Point of sale: Sogo & Seibu’s new year campaign acknowledges 2020’s dismal sales, but gives heartfelt thanks to those customers who patronized the department store. | SOGO & SEIBU CO., LTD.

That is why the department store chain Sogo & Seibu’s new year campaign, Watashi ha Watashi, which is currently running nationwide, has had such resonance. Its main visual is a simple receipt, with the sales numbers for a selection of items sold between June and November last year.

At first it makes for depressing reading: a nationwide total of only 1,001 pairs of high heels sold; a mere 475 yukata (thin cotton kimono), for a summer with no festivals; 76,175 sticks of lipstick to paint lips hidden by masks. But the message is one of thanks to those customers, rather than a wallow in pity. It’s precisely because it addresses that grim reality in an unflinching way — a profound plea for normalcy — that it has so captured the public mood online. Cynics might say it reflects a false hope, but at least it tries to find a beautiful sentiment in a dark hour, instead of looking the other way.

When will fashion collections do the same? For an ever-changing medium, fashion is also quite cumbersome when it comes to production. All eyes are on the next Tokyo fashion week, scheduled for this March.

The video that accompanies the campaign can be viewed online at bit.ly/watashihawatashi.

Harajuku reset

In contrast to the comparatively sturdy foundations of department stores, many of the smaller boutiques and brands that arguably reflect the face of Japanese fashion, especially on social media, are far more vulnerable. Many are only a bad season away from disaster, and as tales of shop owners sleeping on the floor of their shops to make it through emerge, the trendy backstreets of Harajuku have seen an exodus of smaller names unlikely to make it to press, but who still make a valuable contribution to the fashion ecosystem.

It is especially damaging for the area, precisely because the main streets have been long-colonized by larger brands who once benefitted from the East Asian inbound market, but are now, of course, also in trouble.

Even the architect of Harajuku kawaii himself, Sebastian Masuda, has had to let his Kawaii Monster Cafe go. A popular tourist attraction, the shockingly cute restaurant will close on Jan. 31 after only a five-year run, so you have until the end of the month to have your last taste of Harajuku history.

Kawaii Monster Cafe Harajuku: kawaiimonster.jp

Escape into fantasy

Fashion for fans: Loewe’s exquisite capsule collection collaboration with Studio Ghibli’s 'My Neighbor Totoro' has enough items to make a complete wardrobe. | LOEWE
Fashion for fans: Loewe’s exquisite capsule collection collaboration with Studio Ghibli’s ‘My Neighbor Totoro’ has enough items to make a complete wardrobe. | LOEWE

If any business has been doing well in these tricky times, it is the nostalgia and pop culture collectables market. It seems escapism from the present is looking increasingly attractive. What was once a mere geek-chic T-shirt is now fashion proper, and until these collections stop selling out and becoming collectables themselves, this trend isn’t going anywhere.

The upcoming theatrical film “Sailor Moon Eternal: The Movie” is spawning its fair share of collaborations. First up is a capsule fashion collection with mid-market womenswear label Jouetie, which is currently available for pre-order. Alternatively, on Jan. 27, a much-anticipated collaboration with underwear brand Peach John’s teen-targeted line, Girls by Peach John, is on the horizon, with a collection that spans lingerie-esque underwear and room wear.

Finally, Jan. 8 saw Loewe drop its collaboration with Studio Ghibli’s iconic 1998 film, “My Neighbor Totoro.” The expansive capsule collection has everything you need for a complete wardrobe, and it is made with such love that it’s sure to thrill any fan. It is available in stores nationwide and online right now, but by the time you read this you may be reduced to scrolling through auction site listings.

Sailor Moon Eternal: The Movie x Jouetie bit.ly/jouetie-sailor; Loewe: loewe.com/jap/en/home

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