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The fashion sector in Japan

As one of the world’s largest fashion markets, Japan offers major opportunities for UK companies who can offer the right product.

Market overview

Japan is one of the world’s largest fashion markets. It leads the market in Asia and other countries in the region look to Japanese trends. Outside the EU, Japan is the second largest export destination after the US for the British fashion industry.

The Japanese fashion market (which includes women’s wear, men’s wear, children’s wear and fashion accessories) is one of the largest markets in the world with retail sales of over ¥9,800 billion in 2011 (approximately £65 billion (£1 = ¥150), up 1.8% from 2010. There are many Japanese stores nationwide; approximately 250 department stores, 500 fashion boutique chains, and many other independent stores.

British fashion is generally well accepted amongst Japanese consumers. Japanese society appreciates the uniqueness of UK design and admires the heritage of British fashion brands. ‘Made in the UK’ is considered by many in Japan as a sign of authenticity.

Getting into the Japanese market:

  • direct sales to retailers: this is often the first step for UK companies entering the Japanese market. UK companies should ensure that their retail prices in Japan are consistent at any store throughout the country. This is important for branding purposes.
  • appoint an agent: this is the best way to present your brand as your agent will be responsible for both sales and public relations.
  • distributors / trading houses: again, it is important to ensure that your retail prices are the same and that you know who your retailers are.
  • license your brand: production and delivery are taken care of in the market, however be certain to maintain control of your brand image.
  • set up an office in Japan: this will provide you with full control over your brand, although a significant investment will be needed to do this.

Becoming big in Japan:

Kent-born designer Christopher Raeburn launched his fashion label in East London in 2008. Today his designs are sold through 30 stockists worldwide, including in Paris, Moscow, Milan and Beijing.

Exhibiting at London Fashion Week in September 2010, Christopher met a Fashion Sector Specialist from UKTI who invited him to join a trade mission to Japan that November. He received a grant through UKTI’s Tradeshow Access Programme towards the cost of the trip, which saw him exhibiting alongside 20 other British designers at the GREAT Britain showcase in Tokyo. Two further trade missions to Japan followed in 2011 and 2012 and UKTI’s Fashion Sector Specialist provided hands on support along the way.

Christopher Raeburn has now secured a number of partnerships and wholesale accounts in Japan, and is in advanced stage talks with a potential local agent. The company is also working in collaboration with Japanese bag manufacturer Porter on Remade in Japan, a small range of bags from UK-sourced fabrics.

“The support we have had from UKTI’s staff in both the UK and Japan has been outstanding,” says Christopher. “Not only does our association with them give us credibility and open doors for us, but we can use them as a trusted sounding board.”


For more information about business opportunities in Japan, please go to

Whereas every effort has been made to ensure that the information given in this article is accurate, neither UK Trade & Investment nor its parent Departments (the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office) accept liability for any errors, omissions or misleading statements, and no warranty is given or responsibility accepted as to the standing of any individual, firm, company or other organisationmentioned.

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