When it comes to shopping destinations, few places come close to Tokyo. Home to some of the most prolific contemporary fashion labels, the retail landscape of Japan’s capital city is unlike anywhere else in the world for a number of reasons. Most notorious is the city’s variety of subcultures and cliques that can be spotted throughout the city, a visual encyclopedia of fashion and styles from past to present and beyond.
Then there’s the stores themselves.
Nowhere in the world does architecture and retail collide with such fascinating results than in Tokyo. Over the past few years, many of architecture’s global stars have been hired to design shops for luxury brands and seem to have turned the city into a battleground for a rare, and spectacular, game of architectural one–upmanship.
With space at a premium in the sprawling city inhabited by 35 million, maybe it’s no surprise that brands such as Christian Dior, Hermès, and Prada are enlisting the help of the likes of Renzo Piano, Rem Koolhaas, Toyo Ito and Tadao Ando to help them stand out and ensure the design of their buildings is every bit as interesting as the latest lines housed within.
But as brands scale down their bricks and mortar retail offerings in Europe and many other places around the world, it’s fascinating to see the movement of brand-name stores in Tokyo investing more than ever in physical stores and experience.
For all its modernity, Japan is still very much a cash-based culture; there’s a strong belief that you should only spend the money that you actually have, so shopping in Tokyo with a credit card (whether online or in a shop) is sometimes frowned upon. As a result, bricks and mortar retail is still an important part of city life, and there’s an even greater incentive to create a unique and exciting experience that will encourage people to come and spend money.