National / Social Issues

Tokyo-based website offers 'genderless' clothing alterations


A clothing repair company has launched an online service aimed at lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender customers who might be reluctant to use brick-and-mortar stores for alterations.

Tokyo-based En Coton set up the website Madam M in September, proclaiming to be Japan’s first “genderless” clothing repair shop.

“There are many places in cities where LGBT people interact, but there are also people in regional areas who are afraid to speak (about their concerns) to those around them,” said Koki Hashimoto, who is in charge of Madam M’s website.

The shop has provided a way for anyone, regardless of gender identity, to arrange alterations anonymously over the internet.

For transgender individuals, ready-made clothing they had hoped to wear might not fit properly, such as in the shoulder width or sleeve length.

Even if the clothing is resized to fit at a regular clothes repair shop, it might be lacking a particular femininity or masculinity that can only be handled by making more substantial alterations, the company said. Indeed, requests will vary greatly, it said.

Customers may feel reluctant to explain these details to store clerks or in front of other customers. A man who wishes to have his skirt altered might lie and say it is for his wife, while a woman who brings in men’s clothing might claim it belongs to her brother.

Using Madam M, which asked for feedback about specific clothing styles at a bar in Tokyo, customers can determine their own measurements using a step-by-step guide accompanied by instructional videos, and send in clothing they want altered without having to appear in person.

Customers who might feel uneasy about taking their own measurements can ask questions about their particular size via email.

“For starters, we want to make this a place where people feel free to consult with us,” Hashimoto said.