Behind the Breakthrough of “Chinese Brands” in Fashion in Japan | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Behind the Breakthrough of “Chinese Brands” in Fashion in Japan

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Brands from China Opened Stores in Umeda and Ginza Department Stores

Last year, a women’s brand called “Icicle” opened its first store in the Hankyu Department Store’s Umeda flagship store, and a men’s brand called “Dannon” opened its first store in Ginza Matsuya at the same time. What these two brands have in common is that they are both Chinese brands.

The fact that China, which has until now been a production base for clothing, has finally begun to open original brands in Japan’s top urban department stores attracted attention from industry insiders. Since Dannon in Ginza Matsuya is the former site of Issey Miyake, it is clear that the brand is quite highly regarded.


“In this article, I would like to consider the reasons why Chinese brands are now able to open stores in central department stores in Japan. Personally, I believe there are two main reasons.”

1, Few domestic apparel companies are strong enough to open new stores anymore due to the Corona disaster.

2, Chinese brands have improved their design and planning capabilities.

These are the two main reasons.

Last year, the Chinese sports brand ANTA surpassed Germany’s Adidas to become the world’s second largest sports brand by market capitalization. It was also an official sponsor of the Beijing Olympics held in February this year (Photo: Afro)

Department Stores and Shopping Centers Struggling to Attract Tenants

First of all, major general apparel companies in Japan, such as Onward Kashiyama, World, TSI Holdings, and Sanyo Shokai, which have mainly opened stores in department stores and fashion buildings, have been in a slump since before the Corona disaster, and have been massively closing unprofitable stores. And the Corona disaster began at the beginning of 2020. The voluntary restraint of business and shortening of business hours due to the Corona disaster, which began in early 2020, has further prompted the closure of unprofitable stores, and many apparel stores have closed not only in department stores but also in fashion buildings and shopping centers.

Since maintaining directly-managed stores requires securing labor and other costs, the number of domestic apparel companies that can open new stores is limited to mid-sized to large companies, and there were few domestic apparel companies that could open new stores after these companies left. Fashion buildings and shopping centers, including department stores, were also struggling to fill the void, making it easier for Chinese brands to open new stores. Not only have the hurdles to opening new stores been lowered, but it is highly likely that the department stores have actively lobbied for the opening of new stores.

”Icicle” opened on the premium floor of Hankyu Umeda. Products are said to be designed in collaboration with an atelier in Paris and a studio in Shanghai.

Young Chinese students studying at overseas fashion schools

Secondly, China has reigned as the world’s garment production center for 20 years since around 2000 A.D. And if you have been producing a wide variety of clothing for 20 years, you have more than enough infrastructure and know-how for production. All that was missing was the soft skills of planning and design.

Rapid economic growth since 2000 has led to a significant increase in the number of young Chinese studying abroad at fashion schools. As a result, many young people were born who studied fashion design in earnest at Western fashion schools, and their soft power has also increased. The result has been the creation of these brands. In addition to the two brands that have entered Japan, many other fashion brands have grown up in the country, which is called a “national tide (domestic brand boom)”.

Just like in Japan, Japanese people began to have confidence in Japanese brands after Comme des Garcons debuted at the Paris Collections in 1981 and was praised as a “black shock”. As in any country, economic development often leads to cultural development. What Japan experienced in 1981, China is now experiencing more than 30 years later.

The mail-order brand “Shein” has reached 1 trillion yen in sales worldwide. It has also become a topic of conversation in Japan, including its participation in the Tokyo Girls Collection (from the official website).

Shein, a mail-order brand whose worldwide sales have reached 1 trillion yen.

There is another low-priced online shopping brand “Shein” that is currently attracting attention in the economic media and textile industry media, and is reported daily. Unlike the previous two brands, this is a low-priced fast fashion brand exclusively for online shopping, but it has achieved rapid growth, with global sales reaching 1 trillion yen despite having only been established in 2018.

“There are many students and young people in Japan who are buying this brand because of its low price, but there are also many students who are buying it without knowing the brand name or its home country. Although the brand is inexpensive, the designs are not badly made. I was shown a number of products purchased by students, and they have an atmosphere similar to that of low-priced Japanese brands.”

The same low-priced global brands such as ZARA and H&M are well-known, but these brands have “crudeness” peculiar to Western countries in their sewing specifications and materials used, while See-in’s products have no “crudeness” and look just like Japanese low-priced brands if one does not look at the brand tags. This could be said to be the result of the know-how that China has accumulated over the past 20 years as a production site for clothing for countries around the world. And yet, the regular price of the products is as low as g.u.’s, and the reduced price items are less than g.u.’s reduced price items, so it is understandable why they are so popular.

Pakuri products and inferior low-priced products are still rampant.

The appearance of these new types of Chinese brands tends to make Japanese people lose confidence, but this does not mean that all Chinese clothing has changed in terms of sensitivity. However, not all Chinese clothing has become highly sensitive. There are still many Pakuri products and inferior, low-priced products as before. The situation is that new highly-sensitive brands have grown up, whereas before they were all over the place.

It is the same as in Japan, where there are still old-fashioned, bulky clothes for middle-aged and older people and inferior, low-priced clothes. There is no need to underestimate the value of these brands, but there is also no need to fear them more than necessary.


“The likelihood of more high-priced brands from China and big brands like Sealy in the future is likely to increase, but the heavy blow to the economy from the lockdown based on China’s excessive zero-corona policy this spring makes me wonder if the cloud is getting a bit cloudier. There is a possibility that the economy will recover sooner or later, but the optimism about China’s economy with open arms as it was before 2020 is no longer applicable. I personally see the situation becoming unpredictable as to what will happen to the highly sensitive fashion from China that has begun to grow.”

  • Text Mitsuhiro Minami

    Born in 1970. After graduating from university, he joined a mass retail clothing sales chain and became a reporter for a textile trade newspaper in 1997, and after retiring in 2003, he worked in public relations for a T-shirt apparel manufacturer, as a magazine editor, in sales for a large exhibition organizer, and in public relations for a fashion college before becoming independent. Currently, he works as a freelance textile industry writer and PR advisor.

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