Is Luxury Losing Its Luster In Japan?
Japan's love of luxury fueled the rise of luxury brands in the 1980s and early 1990s and have continued to buoy Louis Vuitton, Chanel and others in recent years but could Japan finally be losing its love of the pricey labels? The Financial Times has an interesting piece on a report by McKinsey, the consultants that seems to show that the Japanese infatuation with expensive goods is waning. Brian Salsberg, the author of a McKinsey report on the Japanese luxury goods market says that the change isn't just a recession blip but instead represents "a long-term shift in the market."
But why take the Financial Times article's word for it when I can ask the team at Luxist Japan? Chihiro Ishizaka tells me that there is less of an interest in luxury but that many Japanese are still brand-lovers. There may also be a bit of brand fatigue. The Japanese are bored with the obvious logos like the LV monogram pattern and Prada's famous triangle. Ishizaka says that the ubiquitous Louis Vuitton is not as popular because when high school students are carrying around Vuitton bags it loses its impact for adults. Instead brands like Bottega Veneta and other more modest brands are appealing because they offer quality and prestige without an obvious logo.
Like American consumers the Japanese are becoming adept at high-low dressing, combining brands like UNIQLO, Zara, and Mango with one expensive item and delighting in inexpensive vintage clothing. Brands still have their allure for the Japanese and provide a level of confidence about fashion choices but Japanese consumers are becoming more interested in creating their own mix and match outfits without relying on copying what they see in store windows. Yasushi Okue also of Luxist Japan agrees saying that it "is not just the economy, it's the growing diversity in lifestyle and taste, especially among younger women." This mirrors what the Financial Times article reported indicating a sort of training-wheels approach to luxury in which first shoppers take in what they are sold but later are able to be more discriminating about fashion choices and long for increased personalization. It seems to me that luxury isn't fading away as much as the Japanese are looking for more value from their brands than just a recognizable logo and a flashy storefront.