On October 30th 2012, Kamakura Shirts opened its first overseas store on Madison Avenue, New York. This event made me realize that the people with fashion knowledge were not the people in the industry, but the customers of New York. They pursue a style that is expected of them, and lend an ear to how their surroundings evaluate them. They deeply understand deeply the importance of design, and how it represents their character. Since opening our doors, we have received many positive comments about our shirts.
“The glossiness of their fabric and the softness of their collar… It was unbelievable.”
“The staff were really kind and polite. That small shirt store is great! It is worth visiting.”
“I was disappointed that some shirts had pockets. But I’m sure they will fix that.”
We sincerely appreciate all the comments we receive from our customers.
Day by day, Kamakura Shirts has received more and more attention from countries such as England, Canada, Australia and Italy. We have had offers (of which we are very grateful) to open our stores there. These countries seem to know better than Japan, what Japan has to offer. I am ashamed that I was ignorant about the potentials and possibilities of Japan. We must reflect on our weaknesses and keep learning.
The impression I got from customers in New York City was that quality required simplicity. They know what fine quality is and how to treat it. For example, putting things in a dress shirt pocket will ruin its silhouette. Jackets have several pockets, but there is a rule to keep them empty in order to maintain their shape. This is general knowledge that customers in New York already have. On the other hand, the national character of Japan is convenience. I am very disappointed that most Japanese would demand convenience over fashion. Japanese businessmen often hang bold colored (red, blue and green etc.) identity cards from their necks. Those convenient nametags do not match their suits, shirts, or ties.
The ‘Cool Biz’ fashion is a very good example that captures the national character of Japan. The Cool Biz dress code encourages workers to wear short-sleeved shirts without jackets or ties. This became popular about a year ago in Japan. There were shirts that ignored the rules of dress design: double collars, colored buttons, and colored stitching for buttonholes. Because those highly ranked in a company would wear it, other employees would dress the same even if it was not fashionable at all.
I want Japanese people to know how risky it is to imitate a person who is not setting a good example. At the same time, the top dogs of Japanese companies should think about their dress more seriously.
The question all Japanese people should have in mind is what dress is appropriate for meeting a person from another country. I think dressing well is basic etiquette, necessary even before we think about learning the language. I am very sure that our customers in New York understand this protocol.
Representatives from our 11 sewing factories across Japan actually visited New York. They swore to produce products that exceeded the world standard. Through our experience of opening our first overseas shirt store in New York, we learned that it is too early to celebrate our skilled and dexterous workers. Kamakura Shirts will face countless challenges in New York and will progress. Without such challenges, there will be no progress.