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November 11, 2008 7:12 PM

Fashion, Retail

Waiting Time in Tokyo

This past weekend, Hennes & Mauritz launched the Comme  des Garçons collection in Japan, which coincided with the opening of the retailer's second store in Tokyo in the trendy fashion district of Harajuku. More than 2,000 people lined up --...

This past weekend, Hennes & Mauritz launched the Comme  des Garçons collection in Japan, which coincided with the opening of the retailer's second store in Tokyo in the trendy fashion district of Harajuku.

More than 2,000 people lined up -- some for days -- to snatch a patchwork blazer or a polka-dotted cardigan at a fraction of CdG's regular price tags, although it's clear Rei Kawakubo's cult-figure status drove interest, not the lure of a great deal. I watched in wonder as her die-hard fans camped on slabs of cardboard and downed instant ramen noodles. Even in a country where lines seem to form for the most mundane of reasons -- Krispy Kreme doughnuts included -- it was an impressive turnout. The coexistence and codependence of luxury goods and fast fashion is nothing new. Alexander McQueen's collection for Target is the latest example worthy of mention and it likely won't be the last. But it is especially interesting to see the high-low dynamic play itself out in Japan, where consumers have traditionally linked cheap prices to inferior quality goods.

For that very reason, many in Japan questioned whether H&M could work here. Still, there's evidence that mentality is starting to change, according to Christine Edman, H&M's Japan manager.

"I think the pioneer for that was Uniqlo. They have worked a lot on their quality as well [as H&M] and for me I think that broke the mold in Japan in the thinking," she told journalists a couple days before the Harajuku opening.

Although it's way too early to gauge H&M's long-term success, the lines outside the chain's first two stores are a promising start and the current  macroeconomic dynamics could definitely provide an added boost.

"When your purse strings are tightening that's when you want to get the best deal and you want to still enjoy fashion," Edman said.

And it's safe to say that Tokyo-ites are eager to do just that -- wait notwithstanding.



For a look back at H&M's previous collaborations, click here.
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