Trotting around Tokyo last month, we couldn’t help but notice the proliferation of big-name Western high-street shops. You might be used to seeing the Gap logo in the back of Harajuku street fashion photos, but now Topshop, h&m, Zara and Forever21 have also become staples in Tokyo wardrobes.

So why have these stores decided to market themselves in Japan? Japan is know for being fashion-forward, and these clothing retailers pride themselves on offering consumers fast & fresh fashion at affordable prices. As we’ve seen in Tokyo in particular, there’s a real recession-friendly culture popping up, as customers search for ways to maintain their spending habits without damaging their wallets. We can only wonder how the Japanese love of high-end European brands will transfer to lower budget styles.

As a tourist & foreigner in Japan, what can the big-name low-budget shops offer you? Two words: comfort zone. You probably already know the kind of style that’s on the rails, and you can be certain that if it fits you in the UK, it’s going to fit you in Japan too. I think it’s worth noting at this point that Forever21 have decided not to introduce their plus-size Faith 21 line – perhaps in the future?

What we’re taking issue with here is that is that the great thing about shopping as a foreigner in Tokyo is that it’s Japanese. Personally, we don’t want to come away with something we could have picked up in Birmingham or Brighton or Birkenhead, or any other British high-street. Yes, of course there’s a place for Western retailers in Japan, but not at the expense of homogenising the entirety of Tokyo. It’s possible to find low-budget purse-friendly fashion everywhere in Tokyo, and more importantly you’re buying in to a style that is uniquely Japanese.

Understandably, for Japanese native consumers there is a lure to Western clothing retailers, but we’d hope that as a foreigner in Japan you’ll take advantage of the plethora of fantastic Japanese fashion retailers.

It will be interesting see how these companies fare after their initial investments: only time, and Japanese purses, will tell.


(image credits to &, interesting reads at &

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