By  on March 21, 2011

The opening of an international store is usually a cause for celebration. But for Rebecca Taylor, today’s unveiling of a 710-square-foot flagship in Tokyo’s Harajuku neighborhood is tempered by the massive earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan on March 11.

“We’ve got a lot of concern for our partners and people in Japan,” said Beth Bugdaycay, chief executive officer of Rebecca Taylor. “Kuipo [Taylor’s license and distribution partner] feels it’s better to have some activity and glimmers of optimism. The overriding message should be that despite the traumatic situation in Japan, which is definitely emotionally draining for everybody, people feel the need to work toward the goals they’ve already set into motion. To stop everything would be even more demoralizing.”

The Rebecca Taylor flagship, at 4-26-21, Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, joins Marc by Marc Jacobs, Ralph Lauren and Kitson in Harajuku, a colorful, fast-paced shopping district that’s also known for dining and has lots of foot traffic.

Taylor has been selling her collection in Japan since 2000. Bugdaycay said the Japanese market accounts for 10 to 12 percent of the company’s business.

“We’re trying to be as respectful and thoughtful as possible,” Bugdaycay said, adding the Harajuku store will be open for just two hours a day until conditions in the city improve. Taylor had been planning to go to Tokyo in May for a press event at the new store. “She still might,” Bugdaycay said. “I hope everything’s stabilized by then.”

Because of the Harajuku address, the store “will have lots of easy, fun pick-up items,” Bugdaycay said. “That location has the greatest percentage of small leather goods and handbags of any store.” About 50 percent of the merchandise in the store is exclusive to Japan. Bugdaycay said Japanese women love feminine details and want every item to be special and embellished, so Taylor designed accordingly.

The designer has created a lower-priced line — 30 percent below the collection price point — for the Japanese store. “The lower price point allows us to reach a younger customer,” she said. “That’s how we built such a wide customer base in Japan.”

The company, which is opening a 1,800-square-foot store in New York’s Meatpacking District on Thursday, was considering opening another unit in Japan. “We don’t know really know what the economy will be,” Bugdaycay said. The company has been revving up its retail growth since its acquisition in January by Kellwood Co. Taylor this year will open two U.S. stores, three units in Hong Kong and is targeting London.

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