MILAN -- The deep recession in Japan may be forcing bankruptcies and rising unemployment, but there's at least one relative pocket of strength: The young luxury set -- consumers in their 20s and 30s -- are...
MILAN -- The deep recession in Japan may be forcing bankruptcies and rising unemployment, but there's at least one relative pocket of strength: The young luxury set -- consumers in their 20s and 30s -- are keeping fashion retailers energized.
While the sharp decline in Japanese tourism, which dropped 24 percent last year compared with 2000, has dealt a major setback to such markets as Hawaii, New York and California, it's provided a silver lining of sorts, as consumers are spending more domestically.
But while Japanese tourists are still scarce, buyers for the country's stores are visible again in New York, Paris, Milan and Los Angeles. According to these buyers, the after-effects of Sept. 11 had a lot to do with stabilizing the local market in luxury goods. The heavyweights, such as Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Chanel, Hermes and Christian Dior, are faring best, and Japanese retailers said they would continue to focus their attentions on such first-string players.
But budgets remain tight and the consumer mood unpredictable. The major problem remains the depressed Japanese economy. Overall retail sales fell 2.1 percent last year, with sales at major stores falling 3 percent, their 10th straight year of decline. Japanese consumer confidence fell to 39.2 percent in November -- the latest figure available -- from 45.2 percent in January 2001.
There are pockets of cheer, however. Despite the sharp decline in retail sales, sales of shoes and handbags rose 4.5 percent last year, according to the Ministry of International Trade and Industry, further indication that it's luxury accessories that are most-sought after by the Japanese consumer.
"Not so many Japanese have been traveling to New York or Europe," noted Kawabe Yukino, merchandise planning director for the 14-unit Mitsukoshi department store chain. "So instead of buying this merchandise as tourists, they're spending their money in Japan. Handbags are strong, and high-end jewelry, including watches, are the strongest."
Yuki Hirota, a buyer for The Seibu Department Stores Ltd., pointed out that the Japanese are spending money both in the high end of the market and at fast-fashion stores such as Uniqlo, the Japanese apparel and homewear chain.Kouhei Yanagisawa, director of the 10-unit Hankyu Department Stores, said big brands are holding their own in department stores, but he doesn't expect any dramatic improvement in business until at least the fall. "Until September of this year, economic conditions won't be so good," he said. "We hope they will improve."
But while the Japanese market remains in flux, Hong Kong and other areas in the Far East are holding their own.
"Business is actually quite strong, although there was definitely a slowdown in the third and fourth quarters of last year," said Bonnie Brooks, group general manager for merchandise at Dickson Concepts, adding that luxury is still a strong category, with accessories and jewelry showing more strength than apparel.
Joyce Ma, founder of Hong Kong-based Joyce Boutique Holdings, was also upbeat. "In our shops, our spring season has started off very well. Things seem to be picking up," she said. Asked if accessories are performing, she replied: "For the moment, they're just buying clothes."
“Azzedine has been one of the biggest influences in my life. He has always been such a strong, loving, fatherly figure to me. I call him Papa. His designs are indescribably unique, they are pieces of art. He knew how to make the female form look its loveliest. I have so many memories of him; my favorite might be during my first show with him in Paris. He liked me and he wanted to help me get more work. He called all his friends at Kenzo and Comme des Garcons, and asked them to book me. They said, ‘But she can’t walk!’ And he said, ‘but she has such a great ass!' His friendship and support has been the great privilege of my career. I can't imagine life without him. Repose en paix mon Papa.” - @stephanieseymour tells @wwd. #wwdfashion (📷: @steveeichner) #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa, flanked by two of his closest friends, models Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell.
He designed Seymour’s dress for her 1995 wedding to Peter Brant, and treated Campbell (who famously called him Papa), like a daughter. For more on the legendary designer, tap the link in bio. #wwdfashion #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa's “I-did-it-my-way” ethos stood out starkly at a time when brands are experimenting with consumer-facing fashion shows, coed formats and trans-seasonal collections – anything to perk up lackluster sales of ready-to-wear in an age of Insta-everything. “It’s not creation anymore. This becomes a purely industrial approach,” the late designer told WWD in an interview last year. “But anyway, the rhythm of collections is so stupid. It’s unsustainable. There are too many collections.” Read more about the iconic designer’s life and work on wwd.com, link in bio. #wwdfashion #azzedinealaia (📷: @WWD Archive, 1986) #alaia
Sneaker reselling app @goat’s latest exhibit, "The Greatest: New York," tells the story of New York's sneaker culture. To celebrate the exhibit, an intimate crowd gathered on Thursday night at the pop-up gallery space, located at Platform in Culver City, to hear guest speaker and illustrator @esymai talk about her own rise in streetwear and women in the business. "For me I'm just someone who is creative. I like to create things," said Chang. #wwdfashion
Azzedine Alaïa, one of the most iconic couturiers of the modern era whose body-con designs defined Eighties fashion, has died in Paris. The diminutive Tunisian-born designer, known for his structured knitted dresses with fitted waists and impeccably cut, figure-hugging second skin silhouettes was deeply admired by his peers, and counted supermodel Naomi Campbell - his adoptive daughter - among his inner circle, one of a gang of glamazons including Farida Khelfa, Carla Bruni and Stephanie Seymour who became ambassadors of his style. (📷: Alexandre Guirkinger) #wwdblast