Mottainai fashion makes big strides

November 21st, 2009 by Felicity Hughes

Second-hand and remade dresses from Akarikaoku

Second-hand and remade dresses from Akarikaoku

We reported earlier this week that fast fashion names such as Forever 21 and H&M are becoming more popular than brand names with Japanese shoppers during the recession. But it’s not just cheaper brands that are thriving; second-hand clothing stores are also doing a roaring trade.

Used clothing outlet Don Don Down opened two new stores in Japan just this month (one in Sapporo and one in Tokyo) and is due to open another in Tokushima in December. Don Don Down, whose full shop name is the rather unwieldy “Don Don Down On Wednesday,” employ a rather unusual concept to get customers through their doors: Every Wednesday the price of items is radically reduced. Thus a top that started out at ¥5,000 gets progressively cheaper each week: First reduced to ¥3,000, then to ¥2,000, then ¥1,000. The cheapest possible price for an item is ¥100. A huge range of clothes are on offer, from brand names to cheap and cheerful items, so the starting price can vary from ¥10,000 to ¥100.

Just 1% of all clothes thrown out for recycling are bought by Japanese customers, with the rest being shipped off to other countries, but that figure is set to change. These days you can often hear the phrase “mottainai” (lit. what a waste) and many people try to reuse items that would ordinarily have been thrown out in the trash. Tokyo 100% Design Show had an eco theme this year and some designers had reused unusual materials like ping-pong balls and PET bottles to create funky pieces of furniture.

The fashion industry is also trying to come up with ways of recycling materials so remaku items (meaning clothes that are made from several pieces of second hand clothing) are getting popular. Akarikaoku web store sells some really cute items, as does Songkrang.

It would appear that more  Japanese have caught on to the American trend of the recessionista: the fashionable woman who creatively use old clothes to make a new look. A TV program on NHK that aired this summer and is streamed on Tokyo Kawaii Etc blo  introduced the concept to Japanese audiences and featured nine girls who are given the task of creating an entire outfit from items found at a used clothing store , on a budget of only ¥3,000.

The girls get their sewing machines buzzing and come up with some really nifty outfits using surprising techniques, like dying fabric a vintage beige with tea-bags or creating belts out of soda can ring pulls. I particularly liked the hip-hop girl who made some dungarees from an old kimono but balked at another girl’s outfit that featured a polka-dot bra on top of an old swimming cossie. A girl has to draw the line somewhere!

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