Filipino Fashion Designers, Here’s How You Can Crack the Japanese Market


Filipino fashion has become more adventurous in recent years, with designers exploring different elements that reference the past, present, and perhaps, even the future. While our local scene is prominently bold, the land of the rising sun is known for being the exact opposite. Japanese fashion is typically associated with clean lines and relaxing silhouettes that reflect their way of life: simple yet meaningful.

That being said, there is much more to understand about the Japanese and their sartorial minimalism. Just recently, the first-ever PHx Fashion Conference was held at the Philippine Trade and Training Center. Aside from the many Filipino bigwigs that gave insightful talks, two representatives from the internationally acclaimed fashion showroom, H30 Fashion Bureau, gave their two cents about cracking the Japanese fashion market.

Jason Lee Coates and Hirohito Suzuki share with Esquire Philippines some no-fail style codes that every designer should remember to attract the Japanese consumer.

Nothing too provocative, please.

Japanese are conservative dressers in general, and they avoid exposing too much skin. (If you’ve been to Japan, you’ve probably noticed how covered up most of them are, but that’s because they love to protect their skin from the sun, too.) Designs that are too “vulgar” or bring attention to “erogenous zones” don’t sell well.

Be careful with prints.

Loud prints are risky. They prefer subtle prints instead. “Abstract prints are fine as well. Keep it soft and feminine,” Coates says. 

Use seasonal colors. 

Japanese dress in colors according to the season: blacks, grays, and icy colors for winter; sunny shades and warm hues for the summer; and pastels for spring. Coates also mentions, “Japanese love pink. They love beige, they love black, they love white.”


There’s this thing called “compact mentality.”

Photo by UNSPLASH.

Did you ever notice how Japanese locals are sometimes color-coordinated? Well, Coates and Suzuki share that the Japanese prefer to blend in rather than stand out. This is also known as “compact mentality.” Hence, all the nude colors and muted tones that make it easier to disappear among the crowd.

“That’s why colors like yellow and really big prints don’t work. Same with jewelry—big jewelry doesn’t work,” Coates says. 

"They don’t wanna show off. They just want to enjoy being by themselves,” Suzuki affirmed.

The simpler, the better. 

They love keeping things light. 

Coates also shared an interesting tidbit about their penchant for all things light: “They don’t necessarily want it to touch the body, so it’s almost like they want [the clothes] to float.” This is why Japanese manufacturers continuously develop technologies to create the lightest, most comfortable fabrics. 

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They are really discerning shoppers. 

Quality is the most important purchase factor for the Japanese. They also consider how all factors converge to give the most 'value for money': style, color, price, stitching, etc. That’s why some shoppers will spend a long time analyzing one item alone. “They really turn things inside out,” Coates said. 

The swing tag is crucial. 

Swing tags are basically price tags but with more information. Aside from the garment’s price, swing tags could also indicate a laundry guide, fiber content, and other pertinent brand details like social media handles. Japanese want their swing tags comprehensive—all details should be understood at a glance.   

No to basics. 

If you’re worried about designing a collection that ranges from avant-garde to everyday wear, we’ve got news for you. There are already plenty of Japanese brands that create everyday basics (ehem, Uniqlo), so when they’re on the search for cool designers, they want something different.

Simply embrace your brand's uniqueness and tell your story in a way that resonates with the Japanese consumer. Localizing is important. 

Tokyo is a conservative market. 

Photo by UNSPLASH.

You’ve probably been thinking that Tokyo has the most outrageous fashion sense, but Coates and Suzuki stated that it is actually the most conservative market. Osaka is more eclectic and trendy. Interestingly enough, Nagoya is a fashion dark horseit drives the most sales for H30, proving that the market is also fashion-forward. 

For public relations, magazines are still effective.

While brands and designers are not impervious to the opportunities of the digital world, print is still an influential platform for consumers. Many fashion brands place advertorials with local magazines, knowing that they’ll tap into a wide range of consumers.

For more information about PHx Fashion Conference and future events, visit the official website here. To learn more about H30 Fashion Bureau, visit the official website or follow the brand on Facebook

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