Bizel: "The trends in Japan are unique because brands don't copy"

Born in the French city of Lyon, Loic Bizel works as a consultant for major international fashion brands in Tokyo, Japan. He came to Asia in 1995 while working as an export manager for shoe firms such as Paraboot, Elizabet Stuart and Palladium. After five years in the business and dealing with companies such as Beams, Isetan, Issey Miyake, Yohji Yamamoto and Comme des Garçons, he set up his own consultancy and the “Tokyo Fashion Tour”, which was tailor-made for fashion designers worldwide seeking innovation and trends in all areas of the business.

Some of Bizel's customers are the department stores Galeries Lafayette and Nordstrom; the Swedish chain H&M, C&A, Primark, Topshop, Timberland and The North Face, among others.

FashionUnited was in Tokyo and had the opportunity to talk with Bizel about its work and what brands, new trends and the Japanese fashion market are looking for today.

Bizel: "The trends in Japan are unique because brands don't copy"

How do you work with fashion firms that call you?

Tours are part of the consulting work and are tailored to the needs of the client. Some come to see novelties in store lighting concepts and others, the way products are displayed, for example. In some cases there are customers who want to focus on design and come to see trends, so we set the itinerary to visit different stores to meet their requests, taking into account new concepts, rising brands, etc.

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What do brands look for now?

In recent years, we have noticed an increased demand for new concepts, not just fashion but something more global like lifestyle and experiences when buying. There is an obvious evolution. For example, there are more and more cafes and bakeries in clothing boutiques and this has to do with these concepts of mixing different experiences to attract the consumer. Another area showing an upward trend is the digital universe.

Where is digital going?

There is a current that is gradually increasing, which is known as "o to o: online to offline". Many brands are testing taking people from online to offline and vice versa. For example, Zara's shop in Roppongi Hills (Tokyo) is undergoing repairs, so they installed a pop-up where you can see and touch clothes, but the sale is virtual, so people can see the products offline and buying online. It is a test and we are still at an early stage of what is to come. There is a slight increase in the cosmetic universe where considerable investment is being made in virtual reality. Also, Zara's pop-up in Japan combines offline and online channels.

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What is happening with the fashion industry in Japan?

The Japanese market is fairly stable. Local fashion has evolved a lot in the past 20 years. Previously, everything went through department stores and some exclusive stores until some domestic brands began to operate independently doing everything from design and production to the final sale without going through department stores. Now, there are large companies in Japan operating their own brands and producing in Asia.

What is the place of fast fashion?

There are local fast fashion brands that renew their products every week and, in stores, you can see news and articles announcing discounts almost every day. In terms of design and trends, the Japanese are very quick to incorporate and adapt to innovation. That is why the trends seen here are unique because brands are not copied from each other as they may be in other places. Large European companies come to Japan to look for "inspiration" but local brands don’t care because they are generally not focused on exports.

Bizel: "The trends in Japan are unique because brands don't copy"

What are Japanese consumers like?

It depends on the segment, but I must say that there is less and less segmentation. Young people are attracted to fast fashion because it is inexpensive and trendy. For other sectors. it has to do with focusing more on quality than on quantity. In general, people between 28 and 30 choose quality and prefer to pay a hundred dollars for a Fred Perry T-shirt that will last ten years instead of a cheap imitation that won’t even last for one.

What is the trend today in Japanese retail?

Small local brands and concept stores that invite you to have a different shopping experience with cafés, flower shops, wine tastings and even stores embedded in old houses that retain their structure, particular aroma and personalised assistance.

This article was originally published at FashionUnited.es.

Images: Carolina Allen, Loic Bizel, @japanfashion