Independent Designers Move Up in the Fashion World
August 21, 1998
The streets of the hip Tokyo neighborhood of Harajuku are filled with young people dressed in their own unusual styles. Many of their clothes are almost shocking in their asymmetry, their crumpled look, or in the way they are thrown together from various scraps of cloth. A few of these surprising clothes are made by the wearers, but many of them are taken from "indie brand" collections. These "indies" are moving up in the market, in many cases overtaking the imported brands that were all the rage just a few years ago.
Working on a Smaller Scale
The term "indie" was originally used to describe music and movies released on a small scale by independent artists or small companies, without major corporate backing. Indie fashions are generally produced by two or three people at most--often the designer works completely alone. Quite commonly, the same person who drew up the pattern handles everything from the sewing to the marketing and sales of the merchandise. Many of the clothes from these indie designer labels are avant-garde, one-of-a-kind pieces. Compared to the polished creations imported from fashion houses in Europe and America, these indie designs can seem rough and even clumsy, but they are popular for that very individuality.
Finding Fashion at Home
But with Japan's economic recession, the import boom came to an end. Consumers began shying away from the higher prices of the imported goods, and stores looked more critically at the costs and delivery problems associated with them. Japan's fashion world then shifted its attention to the domestic scene, where the popularity of indie brands among young people was rising rapidly.
The Future of Indies
Meanwhile, sensing a new business chance, the buyers who had been active overseas are beginning to set their sights on these indie designers. Department stores are starting to replace many of their designer boutiques with sales spaces devoted to indie brands. And magazines targeting the fashionable young are carrying special features on indie designs, boosting sales of these brands.
The future of the indies boom remains up in the air, however. Traditionally, the fashion world pampers independent designers and offers them licensing contracts while they are hot, but severs the relationships when their popularity fades. The long-term success of these young designers may hinge on whether corporate backers can come up with a fresh approach to new fashions and their creators.
Edited 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.