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Tokyo loves shopping, loves pop up !


Anyone visiting Tokyo should set aside at least a day or two to go shopping (and a credit card or two to pay for it). Even though internet sales are big business, Japanese consumers still love their physical stores – they can be quite an adventure. I recently spent a few weeks in Japan – in large cities and smaller towns, on mountains and an art island ! (thank you Andre-san for being an excellent guide)

It’s easy to see why Japan loves pop up – not just fashion but across many categories. Walking the streets of Tokyo we found several stores with pop up experiences. Some of the biggest global brands have popped up (recently) within Isetan Shinjuku – Coach, Gucci, Miu Miu, Prada, TAG Heuer and Valentino to name a few. Other pop ups at Isetan were not so familiar – Alphatauri, Clot, Pyrenex, SK-11 and The Future Rocks (an online marketplace for lab-grown diamonds)

Elsewhere on the streets we saw loads of other signs and installations, popping up. Great fun – and complimentary to the serious business of (permanent) retail.

But not always so serious. Louis Vuitton and Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama have just collaborated (again) in an extreme pop up installation – a 2 storey structure in Tokyo’s Shibuya-ku district. This pop up is an immersion into a world of polka dots and mirrored balls… Those dots are everywhere, inside and out – the balls merge to form stylised LV logos, an oversized bust and torso of the artist greets you at the door. Oh, there are a few mannequins featuring the LV / Kusama ready-to-wear range and also (look closely amongst the dots…) handbags, accessories and fragrances. The Louis Vuitton / Yayoi Kusama Tokyo pop-up runs until 22nd January.

If you’re not familiar with the polka-dotted theme… the artist Yayoi Kusama has created dozens of dotted works over many years (she’s 93 years old !) – often of yellow pumpkins in all shapes and sizes, but also in red. There’s an installation of each over-sized pumpkin on Japan’s Naoshima art island – a plump red one welcomes visitors who arrive by ferry, the yellow is on another side of the island, both seem to sit randomly at the end of a pier. And both were featured in many of our selfies ! (the squash-like yellow one is actually a reproduction, the original 1994 installation was swept away in a storm 2 years ago)

Back in the big cities Japanese locals are pretty keen on their designer garments, accessories and make up – the whole effect. Especially with the younger crowd – all genders are out socializing, eating and shopping. I saw many women in long boots and short skirts, faux fur and feathers, with layers of rainbow makeup and hair stuck out in pigtails… a teenage boy on the subway with his bright green Gucci handbag… another kid with a jet fighter stuck on top of his designer cap. All happily expressing themselves as individual (but the same…)

I think because Tokyo residents (and tourists) love their shopping there’s much variety and quality in the larger stores. I spent half a day in just one building – the Isetan Men’s store in Shinjuku. OMGoodness, what an experience ! There’s 7 stories devoted to men – an expanse of fragrance and accessories at ground, then twirling up through whole levels of Creators, Designers, Luxury, Bespoke, Contemporary and finally “Authentic” menswear. There’s an on-site tailor busy making suits in a glass room, one-off Issey Miyake pieces, Ralph Lauren not even on-shelf at the RL flagship store… So many familiar (and un-familiar) labels in one building… I swooned my way up and up.

Across town (in the Shibuya-ku district) is the Ralph Lauren flagship store. Okay, not a pop up but an interior designer’s dream… It is thoroughly opulent and themed from top to bottom – the journey starts with a Carrara marble staircase and gets even better as you waft through rooms of mosaic floors, Venetian plasterwork, limestone columns, floor to ceiling panelling, chandeliers and more. The store designers must’ve had so much fun on this commission ! And then VM team were let loose – sourcing the furnishings, accessories, RL memorabilia and (sometimes bizarre) oddments…

Even Japanese towns have massive shops – acres of supermarket, hardware, auto parts… every speciality store you can think of, on a large scale. And then tucked away in quiet backstreets you’ll find the quirkiest small shops – delicate foods, trinkets, homewares and designer outfits (don’t miss out on the vintage stores – clothes and accessories !)

On a related (someone who loves pop up) topic… a month ago I mentioned another Melbourne pop-up for SHEIN. In that article I pointed to their “first permanent (global) store” in Tokyo. Yes, it does indeed exist – we stumbled across it ! And yes, it has very limited stock in store and no cash counter – there are staff walking around with a board explaining how to scan and purchase online. The store also has a heavily-branded, semi-enclosed space for selfies (themed for Christmas when we visited). And… a couple of weeks later we found another SHEIN store in Osaka – so well done as a pop up that it seems almost permanent (the Osaka pop up opened 10th October, through to 27th January 2023)



images :  Pop Up Shops Australia, Google Images – Louis Vuitton / Yayoi Kuasama, Naoshima, Ralph Lauren

One comment to "Tokyo loves shopping, loves pop up !"

  1. Andre 14/01/2023

    Loved being your tour guide!
    Great article and great pics!


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