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Plus Size Retail in Japan 2022

Brief summary of the Plus Size Fashion Industry in Japan, 2022

Domestic sales trends clearly indicate that there is a growing demand for plus size clothing in Japan, and over the last decade we’ve seen a handful of niche brands take off with a lot more room to grow. It’s certainly not near the variety of styles we see in countries like America, but it is somewhat proportional to the population demand. Japan has relatively fewer plus size consumers, so it is indeed a niche market. But it’s a niche market that is still largely untapped and ripe for expansion.

A Demand for Plus Size Models

With an increase in online and import shopping, there is a growing demand for companies to employ diverse plus-size models to show how their clothing actually fits different bodies. This shift in consumer behavior has highlighted a problem that plagues a lot of international brands; companies aren’t using plus size models when their goal is to sell clothes to plus size women. This is a huge oversight in marketing and can ultimately impact whether or not someone makes an online purchase.

Fortunately, some Japanese brands such as Re-J and Punyus are listening to consumers and working closely with plus-size models to market their collections.

The rise of social media and a plus size consumer base that is younger than in previous decades is adding to this demand, with many women taking to Instagram, Twitter, and Youtube to fulfill the marketing demand that retailers aren’t meeting. There are an astonishing amount of successful social media based Japanese Plus Size models and influencers that are dominating the online sphere with reviews and style tips.

Critics of Plus Size Fashion

In a culture that holds certain beauty standards in high regard, images of diverse body types, skin types, and facial features provoke strong, and sometimes negative, reactions. The complaint most often heard is that by having plus-size models and fashion becoming mainstream, industries are promoting unhealthy lifestyles and obesity. This argument is nothing new in Japanese or English. Plus Size Fashion critics usually use this as their first and strongest point as to why the industry is detrimental to society.

Whether or not you agree with the critics, the Japanese plus size fashion industry is slowly stepping up to meet the increasing demand.

What’s Available in Japan

For an industry that has growing demand, there is relatively little domestic competition. On the lower end, there is much less style variety and a lot of basic wardrobe pieces for different seasons and occasions. As the price scale moves up, there is a noticeable difference in design and materials.

In each category, low end, midpoint and high end, there are 2-4 brands that currently dominate those price brackets. When looking at price points, the lower end retailers, such as Shimamura, offer quality and prices similar to Shein, but drastically few styles. High end retailers mainly consist of brands that focus on formal and work wear, which given the cost of materials is reasonable.

The most variety of styles come from the mid point domestic plus size retailers; while the price range is slightly higher than retailers that sell smaller sizes, they are generally on trend and are able to offer consumers some seasonal fashions but tend to mainly stock staple pieces (the beige trench coat will be around for the foreseeable future).

What is lacking is seasonal and annual variety, as well as differences in aesthetics. Conservative business casual looks dominate what’s available and marketed from mid-point retailers. Think pastels, loose silhouettes, and a lot of neutral tones. Punyus is the only major brand that does not center its brand around this look, instead opting to focus on bold streetwear styles in both smaller and plus sizes. There are a handful of niche designers that make custom order dresses (popular with those interested in lolita fashion), and only one designer that has released a collection of what we’d call ‘punk/rock’ pieces (currently featured at ACDC in Tokyo).

There is an opportunity for domestic retailers to cash in on niche plus size styles, such as party wear. At this time, niche demands within the Japanese plus size fashion industry are being met by international companies such as H&M and Shein.

Shein is a notorious fast fashion website that ships globally, and in 2021 it hit a note with plus-size consumers in Japan. Shein is offering something that people can’t find in Japan; a variety of plus size fashion styles modeled by diverse women. On social media, there are hundreds of posts from Japanese women applauding Shein for providing what consumers want at a price point drastically lower than what’s currently available in Japan. While the quality of product is low, business practices are questionable, and subpar customer service, its sudden rise to popularity by Shein is an example of the void in supply. Despite the negative aspects of Shein and fast fashion, these international companies are still able to do well in markets with little to no competition. Because Japanese consumers are highly influenced by trends and social reviews, the cascade of non-sponsored reviews led to Shein becoming successful as a plus size retailer for Japanese consumers.


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