Business & Economy Science & Technology Education & Society Sports & Fashion Arts & Entertainment
Top Picks Back Numbers Search

Japanese Brands Make a Splash in Foreign Markets

March 9, 1999

Fashion is increasingly driven by teens in the street rather than models on the runway.

Japanese fashion is once again winning raves in overseas markets. This time, though, the clothes are neither haute couture nor pret a porter; they are mostly casual street wear popular with teenagers and people in their twenties. The vibrant designs of these clothes, commonly seen in the fashionable districts of Tokyo and other big cities, are being embraced by urban customers in the West--New York, Los Angeles, London, and Paris--as well as in such Asian markets as Hong Kong and Taiwan.

New Status Symbols
The main players behind this trend are not the major apparel makers but more obscure brands that have yet to become household names even in Japan. Clothes by Hysteric Glamour have been sold in boutiques in Europe and the United States since 1993 and have won a following among a slightly older set than most customers in Japan. Super Lovers, which started off without garment-maker support, began exporting its line in 1996 and is now popular in London, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. A boutique under its direct management opened in London in November 1998, and a second is now in the works. Evisu Jeans, too, has established an avid core of fans in Europe and the United States.

Hysteric Glamour is known for T-shirts and cut-and-sewn shirts decorated with distinctive character prints, as well as for its jeans, and Super Lovers features a large heart as its trademark. Both are distinguished by a colorful and cheerful look. Pants by Evisu Jeans sport a wavy mark on the back pocket and are popular for their loosely tailored silhouette.

Many of these Japanese casual brands have become status symbols in the world's leading fashion centers. When European and U.S. designers visit Japan, many reportedly stock up on these garments as samples or souvenirs, and clothes shoppers also find them pleasing: "There's a very digital-age feel to these brands," comments one European fan. Another explains: "I've never seen anything quite like the jumbled-up look of these fashions. That's what makes them so cool."

Meanwhile, revealing fashions like leopard-print mini-dresses--especially popular among teenage girls in Tokyo's Shibuya and other trendy neighborhoods--are in high demand in Asia, including Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Shanghai. Lovers' Concerto enjoys annual sales of about 100 million yen (833,000 U.S. dollars at 120 yen to the dollar). Other brands that have started taking off in the Asian market in the past three to four years include Page Boy and Ray Cassin.

Fashions for Rich Kids
In Japan, there exist fashions that emulate the cuteness of young children, and there is also an elaborately layered look called "decorative fashion." Teenagers, too, constitute a sizable market, since many have more money to spare than adults thanks to a falling birthrate. They are thus able to follow one fashion trend after another. These are some of the factors that have given rise to a distinctive youth fashion market.

Japan consequently boasts top-quality casual brands for the young. But many problems, including high prices, are hindering the growth of export sales. Nonetheless, buyers from Asia, Europe, and the United States are keeping their eyes fixed on these brands, and some fashion experts say a Japan boom will soon hit London. Slowly but steadily, the world could begin dressing down as big-spending teens do in Japan.

Trends in JapanEdited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.