It’s still hard for me to believe that I have seen the first place on my bucket list, I walked among geishas in Kyoto, ate sushi prepared in front of me at the source, and had Japanese whiskey 40 floors over Tokyo. It would be impossible to share all my experiences, so Im going to focus on the blog’s theme.
HOW DOES FASHION WORK IN JAPAN?
My first impression was that although the legend says the Japanese working and middle class spend a freakishly big percentage of their income on luxury goods, I haven’t seen any walking around. Everybody is neatly dressed, but outstanding fashion choices are just as rare as everywhere else in the world.
Of course considering the city’s size, it’s impossible to give a full review, but in my experience the types of clothing and accessory shops are the following:
- Luxury and second hand luxury retail
- Very high, or high quality denim and casual wear (Uniqlo, Muji, BAPE etc.)
- Low quality, fast fashion type shops
- Specialty shops (Lolita, cosplay, kimonos etc.)
- Western type import vintage shops
LUXURY SECOND HAND
My bulletpoints were to raid the 100 yen (dollar) store, buy a vintage silk kimono (ended up with two and three kimono jackets) and to find a new everyday bag for myself. Japan is the biggest second hand designer hub in the world, the value of timelessness and quality is deeply embedded in their culture, and so are luxury goods, but only if they are brand new or a like new rarity. Second hand designer shops mostly function to please tourists from all over the world, they even offer tax free shopping, which means 8% off from the listed price.
The rule of thumb is that everything with any sign of wear and tear can never enter the resale shop sanctuary. They usually end up on eBay, or the Japanese equivalent of the auction site. So meanwhile you can get a proper designer bag for €200 online, sitting at home, you will need over €500 to score something if you’re walking around in Shinjuku’s shopping streets. There are no bargains to miss out on if you don’t fly there, as far as my extensive research went, I couldn’t find any place that stocks lower tier priced bags or leather goods.
The shops themselves are not very aesthetically pleasing, they look like pawn shops with big flashy signs, neutral tiles, and creepy neon lights. It’s very rude to touch anything without permission, and the Japanese are the most awkward people in the world so it might take a fair amount of fake smiles, bowing, and pointing, so you can hold something. They are very helpful and very nice to strangers, but don’t expect anyone to speak more than very basic English.
WHAT CAN YOU BUY AND FOR HOW MUCH?
I have been to about 12 of second hand designer shops from a shoe box sized to a 7 story department store and they all have a very limited selection with a recurring theme. The good news is that everything they stock is 100% authentic. They have skilled professionals who check the authenticity of the pawned items, and they give you a certificate when you buy something, so if you ever find out that the accessory is fake, they will immediately give your money back.
Everything with the LV initials is available at all locations. This bargain bin I took a picture of was the closest to an adrenaline rush I got hunting for a good buy, but they were simply very outdated models nobody in their right mind would buy. Considering they are almost new, they can be a good deal if you’re into shoving brand logos into people’s faces. I’ve seen Speedy 25’s for around €350 (or you can get a used one from Japan on eBay for $160 here), bigger Monogram Canvas bags cost between €500-€1,200.
Hermès is the god of designer resale in Japan. Because most of their bags have a blooming waiting list and a frightening price tag, it is a very good business to sell new or hardly used Birkins or Kellys. Although most of the bags I’ve seen had sale tags on them, €500 off a €5,500 bag is still not everybody’s cup of tea. Depending on size and the leather, the Birkin Bags were around between €5,000 and €10,000, surprisingly the oversized one being on the lower end of the spectrum (not bad, the cheapest one you can eBay is $4,500), and Kelly bags between €4,000-€40,000, the latter for the famous crocodile skin version (well, you can get a very used one here for $2,500).
Chanel classic flaps galore! They don’t sell really old ones, what they carry is identical to what brand shops are carrying now. The lowest price I’ve seen for a calfskin one was €600 for a small cream colored version (which would set you back $500 for the chocolate bar and $600 for the very vintage classic online), and €1,200 for the black one (if you really want it, you can find the oldschool Matelasse version for $750 here). The caviar leather ones start at €1,800, but will more likely to be found around €2-4,000.
The “others” are about 10% of the selection, they are a mixture of the recent ugliest pieces of Gucci, Fendi, Dior, Goyard, Saint Laurent, and Prada. They are mostly neon colored, printed, or just simply pink. There is a big variety of small leather goods, but the markups are huge on them, so unless you insist on carrying your coins and maxed out credit cards in a €400 used wallet, I suggest you save up for the bags instead.
SHOPS AND DEPARTMENT STORES
Most of the shops are franchises specializing in designer bags, watches, jewelry, and sometimes fur. Look for Daikokuya, or Brand Off. Komehyo is a seven story complex in Shinjuku, they have a floor for “basic” designer bags (Coach, Michael Kors, etc.), a full men’s department, and two stories of clothing you will never fit in, because everything is Asian sized. Ragtag is a super cool megastore second hand designer franchise with lots of contemporary designer clothes, but most of them are very overpriced and overused. I bought my bag at Ginzo in Shinjuku, there are at least 5-6 similar tiny designer pawn shops in the area, worth exploring!
THE NEW BAG
As I mentioned before I was carrying around my faithful Furla bag for three years, but it’s close to retirement, so I needed something new (old). I’ve wanted a Chanel Flap bag since I was a pre-teen fangirl of this beautiful classic, but my concerns were that the leather and chains are really heavy and I have a scoliosis and serious back pains, the “affordable” sizes are just too small to fit everything I carry around, and that the silver hardware was introduced not so long ago, so 99% of the resale Chanel bags have gold chains, and I never wear gold. I ended up with this roomy thick canvas version with leather straps from 2003. It’s practically new, and I hope it will be a faithful day and knight partner for the upcoming decade.