Global Markets: Big in Japan

Here’s what it really means to be big in Japan. Space may be tight, but these stores are taking Tokyo with their singular points of view.

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Appeared In
Special Issue
Menswear issue 01/17/2011


This story first appeared in the January 17, 2011 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.


Backstory: I.D. Land Company, a manufacturer that offers fresh takes on workwear and military apparel, opened 1LDK, its first retail outlet, two years ago.


Ambience: The name, from Japanese real estate advertising, is an abbreviation for a one-room apartment. Worn wooden floors, whitewashed brick walls and a boxed herb garden out front contribute to the homey atmosphere. “We wanted customers to be able to shop in a relaxed way,” says Ryo Miyoshi, who works in the shop and handles public relations. “We want them to feel like they’re in a house, but like they can shop there.”


The mix: Japanese brands Unused, Black & Blue and World Workers share the space with I.D. Land’s in-house labels Universal Products and Grime Effect. “Most things are basics that can be worn for a long time,” Miyoshi says. “They aren’t trendy. They are more standard but still high quality.” The store also stocks a wide range from German designer Frank Leder. “All the pieces are exclusive and have original fabrics,” notes Miyoshi, holding up a shirt with the Leder label. “This is deadstock from bedsheets.”


1-A Mansion-Suzuka, 1-8-28 Kami-Meguro Meguro-ku, Tokyo; +81-3-3780-1645



Backstory: Yuichi Danjo—nicknamed Dan—opened the shop two years ago, which means he now visits England two or three times a year. It helps that he’s an Anglophile. “I look for new things in the market—new brands but also things that have not yet become brands,” Danjo says. “I look at what people are wearing and using.…I like pubs, I like soccer, I like fashion.”


Ambience: An antique trunk, old postal envelopes and a small corner bearing an England scarf make a minimalist nod to Danjo’s preferred destination, as a Beatles CD provides the soundtrack. “I sometimes go to Paris or New York, but when it comes to a place I really like, it’s England,” he says. “I like the atmosphere there.”


The mix: Although the store’s name is French and its inspiration English, its merchandise hails from all over. The U.S. is represented by V::room. Denmark’s Won Hundred and Japan’s Va-Va and Gauntlets add to the international flavor. At press time, Danjo was waiting eagerly for a shipment from London-based D.S. Dundee.

2-9-9 Ebisu-nishi Shibuya-ku, Tokyo; +81-3-5428-6638


Backstory: Etsuzo Shitara operated a cardboard packaging company until he founded Beams—now run by his son, Yo Shitara—in the mid-Seventies. The first store—a mere 231 square feet, decorated to look like a UCLA dorm room—specialized in American clothes. It eventually grew to fill the entire building.


Ambience: Wooden floors and a spiral staircase give the store a warm, laid-back atmosphere that complements the cool, casual merchandise. As a spokeswoman puts it, “The American feel is still very much alive at Beams Harajuku.”


The mix: “American feel” no longer means exclusively American brands. Japanese labels such as Yoshio Kubo, The Bohemians and Discovered now take center stage, as does Giuliano Fujiwara’s Sploosh label, a Beams exclusive. Other co-branded products include bags from Manhattan Portage and Mickey Mouse watches from Timex.


3-24-7 Jingumae Shibuya-ku, Tokyo; +81-3-3470-3947



Backstory: When the Japanese apparel manufacturer Padic decided to establish its own retail store, it turned to Takayuki Tamura, a former buyer for the Number 44 retail chain, for counsel. Tamura now oversees the look and concept of 7, which opened five years ago.


Ambience: A heavy sliding door opens to a tiny windowless room, but 7 feels intimate rather than claustrophobic. There are quirky touches—a smattering of dwarf figurines offsets vintage European wallpaper and gold mosaic ceiling tiles—but the store takes a serious approach to merchandising. As store manager Tadashi Sato puts it, “We want customers to be able to find something they like just by looking through a small space.”


The mix: The tightly edited assortment of about 30 brands takes in American labels such as Robert Geller, Band of Outsiders, Vision Street Wear, J.Sabatino and Stevenson Overall as well as Japanese lines like Bias, Davit Meursault and Alexander Lee Chang. Among the exclusives are two styles of suede high-tops from Common Projects. “It’s like European history mixed with American style,” Sato explains. “I wouldn’t call it American casual because it has a more European essence and detailing.”


102 Court Daikanyama, 1-33-18 Ebisu-nishi Shibuya-ku, Tokyo; +81-3-3463-6388

United Arrows


Backstory: In 1989, Osamu Shigematsu and three of his colleagues, all of whom worked at Beams, decided to break away and form their own chain of stores. The Harajuku flagship, still the heart of the Japanese retail operation, opened in 1992.


Ambience: Spacious and airy for a Tokyo boutique, United Arrows spans four levels. With expansive glass exteriors, the store has a modern look in keeping with others in this resolutely chic neighborhood.


The mix: It runs the sartorial gamut from up-and-coming Japanese labels such as White Mountaineering and Kolor to Bape’s new tailored offshoot, Mr. Bathing Ape. “One axis of our merchandising [at] United Arrows men’s wear is suits,” says men’s buyer Motofumi Kogi. “The suits we have in store range from classic to fashionable. There are also some that are street and casual flavored.” The store also offers designer clothes from Dries Van Noten, Thom Browne and Lanvin, as well as its own private label. There’s even a space dedicated to kimonos.


3-28-1 Jingumae Shibuya-ku, Tokyo; +81-3-3479-8180

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