Hurray for H&M!

July 22, 2008 at 1:44 pm

They’re just two letters of the alphabet, but in the fashion world ‘H’ and ‘M’ are capital go-getters.

The Swedish clothing retailer has over 1,500 stores across the globe and this fall it’s headed to Tokyo. But can H&M — the king of low-cost mass production — survive in a high-fashion mecca?

Most observers would say, “Heck no!” Japanese women are high-maintenance; they wouldn’t be caught dead in anything less than Louis Vuitton.

In reality, those girls are just a fraction of a bigger population. I know plenty who are just as comfortable in jeans and a hoodie. They shop at places like Uniqlo, where simple cotton tees don’t stretch over $20. And then there’s Takeshita Road in Harajuku where it’s all about trendy-cheap. African guys posing as Americans will entice you with knock-off Pumas. If business is slow, you can use your wilies to bargain them down — though flirting helps, too.

By far, my favorite places to shop are the too-embarrassed-to-show-my-face department stores. Remember Target before they pronounced it “tar-jay”? My parents bought all my clothes there. That and frozen TV dinners. Being a kid I despised that fact. But now that I’m older I can appreciate a good bargain. Apparently, so do Japanese consumers, because just beyond Tokyo central you’ll find plenty of second-tier department stores (Ito Yokado, Jusco, Daiei, to name a few) prospering from their red-tag sales. And they’re great because you can find a treasure trove of patent leather boots and T-shirts with badly-written English. They make great gifts for friends back home.

So is Tokyo ready for H&M? In this economy, yes. Girls love fashion. And girls, even Japanese ones, love a good deal. Sure, the stitching isn’t perfect, but it’s still cute and girls heart cute.


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