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Petit Celebrities

An Introduction to Revered Mid-Level Fashion Employees
17 September 2008
Introduction
A guide to all the minor celebrities who move the fashion world: charisma clerks, press girls, senzoku models, dokusha models, and stylists.
Japanese society is generally hierarchical. Within formal organizations like corporations and high school sports teams, those at the bottom are expected to follow orders from those above without question. This principle of vertical hierarchy is less severe in informal groups, but still operates to a certain degree.

The world of Japanese fashion also operates on an undefined, yet palpable hierarchy. Fashion designers and brand "directors" are treated like unquestionable royalty. More interestingly, however, Japanese consumers tend to embrace mid-level workers in the fashion industry — shop staff, brand press, stylists, and magazine models — as celebrated authority figures. While not as revered as those on the very top, these "petit celebrities" play a serious role in the market.

Stylists help legitimize new fashion ideas and industry trends. Models are not anonymous or superhuman mannequins but identifiable aspiration figures. PR and shop staff "celebrities" enhance apparel maker's marketing process by providing a human bond between the brand and companies. The appeal of this class of celebrities is that they are toushindai — a word meaning "life-sized" and connoting an ability for the consumer to project themselves upon the individual.

Despite the net positive effects of minor celebrities, very few non-Japanese companies skillfully use their employees to create a more accessible face for the brand. This tutorial introduces the salient "petit celebrity" groups and explains how these can be used to market in Japan.
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