Cher Scores with Eco Bag

The perfect accessory for a relaxed summer
15 May 2008
Cutesy surf-inspired brand hits it big with a blue-and-red tote bag
The streets of Tokyo are currently awash in a particular red-white-and-blue accessory: the "eco bag" tote from popular select-shop Cher (pronounced "shel"in Japanese). The totebag has seen huge sales since breaking into the popular consciousness thanks to being a free gift included with the May issue of increasingly-influential fashion magazine Sweet. The bags — priced at a reasonable ¥1,260 for the large size and ¥840 for the small — are selling so well that even the counterfeiters are trying to get in on the action. In the May 13 issue of Senken Shimbun, Cher took out a one-page ad asking distributors and retailers to watch out for fake versions of the now-iconic Cher tote.

According to ViVi, Cher reached sales of 70,000 units for the bag in July. In order to deal with such demand, Cher has only allowed purchase of the bag to customers who buy other goods at its shops.

 Cher Eco Bag
Surfer-gal Yoshiko Yamazaki opened the very first Cher in March of 1995. At first, the select shop strictly sold imports, but within two years, Yamazaki became a designer, making original clothing for the shop in a feminine yet stylish surf-influenced style. Even today, the brand takes its main inspiration from West Coast American beach culture (as evidenced by the website).

Up until now, the main Cher stores have been in the trendy Daikanyama and Harajuku neighborhoods, but just this year, Yamazaki opened a new location in the beach town of Kamakura near her home. The prices for this beach outpost are 15-20% cheaper than the Tokyo stores — a region-based pricing strategy rare in fixed-price Japan.

Cher's current success does seem to be linked to a wider interest among young women in "eco"-related consumerism. Girls are apparently bringing the totebag back to Cher on shopping visits and asking clerks to put newly-purchased clothing inside in lieu of a paper or plastic bag. On that environmentalism tip, Cher is now working with denim brand Lee on a series of items using African cotton. 3% of profits will be donated to Uganda. Yamazaki and her brand are showing the industry at large that social-consciousness can be a powerful weapon when combined with cute design.