Fast fashion in Japan
Posted by ampontan on Friday, May 14, 2010
THE FAST FASHION TREND–the global mass production and sale on short cycles of inexpensive clothing incorporating up-to-the-minute styles—has hit Japan, where fashion consumers have traditionally been known to prefer pricey, brand-name items. Sales are booming for fast fashions, including such brands as Uniqlo (Japan’s leading retail clothing chain), H&M, and Forever 21.
The J-Cast website interviewed Tsujita Yasuko, the manager of the Retail Business Solutions Unit in Branding Group #1 of Itochu Fashion System. She is a specialist in department store and other commercial facility development, conducts marketing surveys and business planning, and creates retail sales floor planning proposals. Here it is in English.
- What sort of people buy fast fashions?
People across a wide range of generations are buying them, but most are young people aged 15-29. Of course economic conditions have an impact, but they’re not selecting inexpensive items because they lack money. There’s a sense that they’re buying them because the trend is for inexpensive merchandise. It’s true of other generations too, but that’s particularly true for young people. Luxury was the trend for a time, and everyone cut down on their food expenses and took part-time jobs to buy designer handbags because that’s what was in. Now it’s the reverse—people try to buy trendy items as cheaply as possible. It’s become a topic of conversation among friends.
- Which brands are popular?
We recently conducted a survey and asked young people interested in fashion which brands they liked, and Uniqlo topped the list. Included among the choices was United Arrows (a Japanese company) and the luxury brand Prada, but Uniqlo had a presence above those. They liked it the best, and they bought it the most. Other than Uniqlo, few brands were mentioned as their favorites.
- Are young people no longer interested in upscale brands?
There’s no question that passionate loyalty toward famous brands has waned. Rather, what’s important now is the shop where an item was bought, or whether it is the same as what a friend or celebrity has. People do go into the upscale brand shops for a look, but only as a reference. What’s growing is the purchase of goods with a similar design at inexpensive shops, or finding things at auctions.
These shoppers want freedom of choice to match their moods, and they have the skills to combine different items. They want to be always in season, so they don’t buy expensive clothing. Female employees in their 20s at our company tell us they buy flashy dresses for parties at Forever 21, but seldom wear the same thing again.
- Will fast fashion have any legs?
Rather than that, fast fashion will be taken as a matter of course as the basic attitude for purchases. H&M and Forever 21 got started in downtown areas, but they’ll be expanding nationwide. It would be a mistake to think that things sell just because they’re cheap, however. They must have a unique appeal. Also, if you reduce the price and unit sales don’t grow, you won’t make any money.
The clothes worn by models in the Tokyo Girls Collection are selling very well, but I hear that’s not the case with other items of the same brands. It will be difficult in the future for brands whose only advantage is that celebrities wear the clothes. The spill-over effect won’t last long.
- Will conditions be difficult for clothing outside the fast fashion category?
We’ve seen a trend in fashions for young Japanese women to be inspired by fast fashion, in which prices are lowered to the level of H&M. But clothes that haven’t been influenced by fast fashion are also selling. Recently, the Earth Music & Ecology clothes in the TV commercial with actress Miyazaki Aoi have been selling well. Those people who saw the ad and thought the company was involved with ecology and not a fashion brand flocked to their website. Ms. Miyazaki’s singing voice and the atmosphere are in tune with the mood of the times, I think. Of course, the product prices are also reasonable.
In essence, different approaches are required. For example, the key word of ecology has resonance for people in their 20s. It’s important there be a sense that one’s activities after purchase be connected to something, such as part of sales being used for ecological activities.
For those with an elevated consciousness who are serious about their carbon footprint, here’s an article from the BBC about the dark side of fast fashion.
This New York Times article focuses on the involvement of top designers in fast fashion, which misses the point, but then again, it is the New York Times. It has plenty of words and mentions a lot of names, but says rather less.
And here’s the YouTube clip of the Miyazaki Aoi commercial. When she claps her hands above her head, she’s imitating a missile.
This entry was posted on Friday, May 14, 2010 at 6:19 pm and is filed under New products, Popular culture, Social trends. Tagged: Japan. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.