The long over-due decision to rebrand 109-2 as 109 Mens took effect last month on the 18th and was celebrated with the complete colonisation of the 4th floor of the building with new and renewed shops. Now for the first time in its relatively short history 109 Mens is actually dominated by male brands instead of being an outlet for women’s. Still, that still leaves 3 floors left to be taken over, but that is the eventual plan and a significantly broader appeal is how they are going to do it. 109-2 which used to be known as a haven for Gyaru-O is suddenly a bastion for the “Real Clothes” movement – brands are boasting about how much of their stock is Made in Japan, the majority of the shops are increasingly adult and conventionally masculine – yes, Cocolulu is still there but it is now in the same building as a stockist of ACV. Overall the mood is tougher and less flamboyant, more mode focused and a touch blander to attract the mainstream – hence:
Now there is a change of branding if ever there was one. Hardly any make-up, barely styled hair, natural skin tone and not a rhinestone in sight – welcome to the ever-evolving 109 Mens. Continue reading for an introduction to the new shops, more styling and proof (as if it were needed) that while somewhat removed from its Gyaru-O origins the spirit of 109 Mens is very much alive and well.
Tokyo Telephone stopped by for the launch bright and early on the 18th which was a very subdued affair to say the least due to its proximity to the earthquake and the fact that power saving measures were still in force in central Tokyo. Never the less it was a good turn out considering and was a very rare chance to actually meet the creative directors of the 109 Mens brands. Overall I was impressed by the direction of the building as a whole, whilst it did not feel necessarily complete and cohesive as yet, as someone who grew up with 109-2 it definitely felt like the 109-2 that I wished it could have been back in the day. For example, it’s the simple things like actually having a male targeted cosmetic shop with male branding in the building that make a world of difference in making the lifestyle element of 109 Mens more palatable.
As it stands these are the key shops of Mens 109 (taken from the Official Guidebook):
The front line of trends in real clothes? Maybe, but certainly the point they meet a larger audience.
And now, the new shops:
On the left: Renewed Goa – which finally has a decent sized shop space to match its presence in Lumine Est and even Shizuoka’s 109! I am a fan (as readers here will attest to), the clothes offer a genuine alternative to brands like Share Spirit, KMRii and 14th Addiction without dropping too much quality.
On the right: Stra Raggio – which satisfies the Japanese infatuation with Italy. They stock a good amount of imported clothes with a boyish sporty vibe.
On the left: Livertive Age – an accesible take on mode styling.
On the right: Modern Lovers – the OIOI brand comes to 109 with simple adult coordinates.
Midas and Of the Neige Style have also got nice new dedicated shops.
Legenda – Fun rocker style.
Above: ESPE Homme – the aforementioned male cosmetics and nail shop (they also do custom deco work)
Below: Fuse – Stripped back and classy biker-inspired gear.
On the left: DAD – Car accessories… (this is definitely getting a post of its own)
On the right: Minority – A very nifty select shop that stocks a lot of brands that would not be out of place in LaForet.
But that is not it, there is also:
Buffalo Bobs Hair – an industry first. A hair salon produced by a single brand. Very interesting indeed.
So there you go, the evolved 109 Mens. While you would be forgiven for not feeling entirely like you are in a wind tunnel of change, but on closer inspection the change in direction is quite significant. This is also echoed by the latest magazines – even Mens Egg has adopted a much more toned down adult look leaving the cliched mid 2000s Gyaru-O look to Men’s Egg Youth. It is clear what direction the industry is going in and the public have definitely been instrumental in pushing them in that direction. Yes, there are still some odd novelty items for the core fans (it would not be Japan without them) but by and large the collection are more fashion focused and less specialised – I would say that 109 Mens has done what 109 did so succinctly last year in moving to a mode Gyaru aesthetic. This enabled the brands of 109 to open in places that previously would have seen them as not high-fashion focused enough, like Parco.
The only serious variable left in the industry is what will happen to those men’s brands that always stood on the sidelines of 109-2 such as Tornado Mart or the Host kings Sos Te Nuto. Will they follow this industry trend or specialise further and further into their fan base? Either way it is a very interesting time for an industry that is weathering the current storm very well by anyone’s standards right now – and you can rely on me to keep you up to date as it happens.