Fashion and Lifestyle Trade Mission to Japan 2015

In November 2015, UKTI London and UKTI Japan organised a fashion and lifestyle mission to Japan, in association with the UK Fashion & Textile Association and the British Allied Trades Federation.

Thirty UK companies were selected and given the chance to unlock substantial business prospects in Japan, meeting and exhibiting their products to major buyers and potential partners in a showcase held in the Ambassador’s Residence at the British Embassy in Tokyo.

Sectors represented included ladies’ and men’s fashion and accessories, and lifestyle and beauty products.

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Andrea Garland, combining vintage accessories and natural beauty, proved to be a hit with buyers and distributors alike during her first trade show in Japan. She started off with a market stall in London and has continued to make her lip balms and natural skincare by hand. “I decided to attend the trade mission because about one third of the orders on our online shop are from Japanese customers, and British Jewellery & Giftware International felt that my brand would be a good fit for the Japanese market,” she explained. “I know my brand can do well here,” she added. Packaging and graphics are a big part of Andrea Garland products, and this seems to be winning over many business prospects. The showcase has already been a success for Garland, as she revealed she has already been receiving emails from people in the industry. “I hoped it would do well, and I haven’t been disappointed. ”

Bloggers’ favourite jewellery brand, Katie Mullally, attended her second UKTI showcase in Tokyo. She has continued to work with UKTI in the UK since her first trade mission in 2014, and credits last year’s showcase and the interest and orders she received with showing that her products would be popular in Japan and that it was definitely worth coming back a second time. “I am definitely getting orders, and the showcase is an amazing opportunity to meet stockists,” she explained. She had some words of wisdom for British companies attending trade fairs abroad. “It’s really important if you’re a new brand not to expect orders straight away. Showing your products and finding out if you will be successful in that market is the most essential aspect of attending these sorts of shows,” she said.

The British Flat Shoe Company and Marcus De flew the flag for great British footwear during the trade mission. This year marks Miguel de Almeida’s second trade mission to Japan. His company, Marcus De, is named after his inspirational grandfather. He has worked tirelessly to build brand awareness in the UK, and Japan and Scandinavia are his next target markets. “I work with UKTI on a regular basis,” he confided, “and although I was here last year I came back again to show my commitment to the market – it’s all about building relationships.”

Charlotte Henderson, founder and owner of The British Flat Shoe Company has seen her shoes be enthusiastically received by Japanese buyers and distributors. She has a passion for Japan and her dream of doing business here is well underway. The 2015 showcase was her second trade mission to Japan. “The first time I came to get a feel for the market, but I really felt that coming back was a worthwhile thing to do so I could show a variety and flexibility in the products that I offer,” she said. “Japan as a market suits me and suits my product, what I do and where I want to take it.”  Department store giants Isetan have shown a strong interest and there are whisperings of a pop-up shop in the pipeline.

Nathalie Vaandrager of Sloane Stationery has found Japan to be a stationery Mecca. She says, “Japan still has a strong paper culture, which makes it an excellent market for our products.” She feels that contrary to popular belief, technology actually opens a space in the market for paper products. Japan is the third market she is looking at seriously. Vaandrager applied for the trade mission after meeting UKTI Japan’s Head of Creative and Lifestyle Team at a “Meet the Specialist” session in London.

Gentlemen’s Tonic, a ‘Made in England’ brand that specialises in male grooming, finds Japan (and the rest of East Asia) to be the perfect market for gentlemen’s care. Salons in Japan began carrying their products in 2008, and their aim for this trade mission is to be stocked in department stores. Chris Bonnefoy, Director of the brand, has high praise for the good organisation of the mission and the informative briefing. “We’re here in Japan to find the right partner,” he said. “In Japan relationships are important, so we’re here to foster those, and both heritage and quality are deemed important by Japanese consumers. Packaging has to be pristine and online sales have to be quick,” he added.

These are just a handful of the wonderful UK companies who participated in the showcase.

UKTI organised trade missions are a fantastic opportunity to discover new markets with help and support from the British Government.


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Article by Vanessa Holden, November 2015.

Photo by Sophia Kirtley, November 2015.