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2008: The Year in Trends

by W. David Marx
17 December 2008
Introduction
A look back at the major consumer trends and hit items from 2008
Looking back, 2008 was not a particularly dramatic year for Japanese fashion. There was some good news: the industry did not succumb to total meltdown and panic, and some brands like Uniqlo, Cher, and Journal Standard managed to pull off impressive growth. But there was also the inevitable bad news: Japanese consumers' seemingly-unflappable passion for European luxury goods took a major hit. Demand for import goods had been slowly thawing over the last decade, but the global economic crisis this autumn guillotined most lingering desires for conspicuous consumption.

No mere recession, however, could actually devastate the world's most sophisticated mass fashion market. At this point, most urban Japanese have an almost inherent social need to embrace trends in perfect synchronicity every season. New economic realities have changed how much consumers can be spend, but young women in particular are still engaged in keeping up with the latest industry trends. Devotion to the new styles pushed by stores and magazines remains strong. Not even weather can slow down the mechanized trend adoption. For example, magazines started pushing springtime Bohemian flower dresses as early as January, and so the item began appearing on the streets in the coldest days of late February — under winter coats, of course. Similarly, autumn fashion began in September, despite nearly identical muggy temperatures to August. After a full year of trend-watching, we can conclude that the structure of Japanese fashion culture remains intact from before, but there is change in the number of consumers participating and how much they are willing to spend.

This abstract conclusion will become clear when viewed in light of this year's seven big consumer trends. At the end of the article, we will also take a special look at the most popular items, patterns, and styles, hopefully giving a sense of how micro-trends work in Japan.

View pictures of the trends and hit items in the Photo Gallery. Original photography by Sean Wood (MEKAS.)
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