South Korean fashion makes inroads in Japan
Sep 26, 2013

Firms are confident that Japan’s affection for K-pop, television and other forms of popular culture will translate into success in the fashion

South Korean clothing, cosmetics and other brands are rapidly making a name for themselves in the Japanese fashion market.

With an established reputation for craftsmanship, South Korean firms are also known to quickly adopt cutting-edge fads. They appear confident that Japan’s affection for South Korean music, television and other forms of popular culture will translate into success in the fashion world.

The South Korean women’s clothing brand Dolly & Molly opened its first store in Japan in Parco department store in Shibuya, Tokyo, on August 23. Featuring colourful, fun designs, the brand’s popularity was boosted after its products were worn by members of the hit bands Girls’ Generation and Kara.

Dolly & Molly set up a street booth outside Parco on September 1 to generate buzz for the shop. “I don’t know any South Korean brands, but the designs look American,” said a vocational student whose eye was caught.

The brand produces its own products and incorporates the latest designs.

Cut and sewn pieces cost about 5,000 yen (US$50) to 8,000 yen ($80), which is reasonable for a Parco store. “We’re not limiting ourselves to fans of Korean pop culture. We want to appeal to a broader audience,” said a store spokesperson. “We intend to develop designs that match Japanese tastes.”

E-Land Co., a clothing manufacturer and retailer with more than 10,000 stores in South Korea and China, opened an outlet of its SPAO brand of casual and business clothing for men and women in Yokohama in July.

Based on the latest European designs but made for the Asian physique, its products are priced at about 70 per cent to 80 per cent of those at fellow fast fashion retailer Uniqlo. The store is creating a product line especially for the Japanese market, with the aim of opening 30 stores here by 2015.

South Korean cosmetics brand Tonymoly, which is now sold in 15 countries, has contracted second-tier clothing retailer M’s Co. to be its agent in Japan. Its first store opened in June and the firm is seeking to quickly open 100 branches.

The South Korean fashion industry matured as a manufacturing base for overseas brands, but pressure from cheaper labor in China and elsewhere has prompted the industry to develop its own brands and seek markets in other countries.

While some believe the Korean pop culture boom in Japan has cooled off, there has been a steady increase in clothing retailers in Tokyo’s Harajuku district and online that offer South Korean brands. Japan’s annual clothing market is estimated to be worth 9 trillion yen, more than three times that of South Korea, making it an attractive destination for South Korean companies seeking to expand further overseas.

SOURCE / The Yomiuri Shimbun