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For years, products were tested in New York City, and if they were successful there, they were launched through the U.S. and globally.  New York City is no longer the benchmark for the latest trends; Tokyo is the new New York City.  Tokyo is “fashion-obsessed”, and cycles through trends very quickly.

Retailers such as Abercrombie and Fitch, and H&M are breaking ground in Tokyo to test their products and get ideas on the next trends.  New York based, LeSportsac has already been testing its products in Japan, and been very successful.  Not only does one-fifth of the company’s revenues come from Japan, but based on what does well in Japan, it is able to produce for the global market.

Fashion consultants in Tokyo hold “cool hunt” tours, which takes foreign buyers and trend forecasters to different boutiques pointing out the latest fashions.  These consultants charge from $800 per day and the clients typically spend north of $20,000 on products to be used as samples for inspirations for their company’s own product lines.  Some companies can streamline the product development process, by sending the samples directly to manufacturers in China to produce in a timelier fashion.

Fashion cycles become quicker every year.  Therefore, in order for retailers to stay “fashion-forward”, they have to scout out the best places in the world.  Even in Tokyo, halfway around the world, the trends picked up there can be the next best thing in the U.S.

Discussion Questions:

1. What do fashion retailers find so interesting about what happens in Japan?

“Testing What’s Hot in the Cradle of Cool,” Business Week, May 7, 2007.

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