MBFWT 2016 S/S invited guest interview vol.2
Butikku's Owner / Kevin House
[ URL ] http://butikku.uk/
Started in 2013, ‘BUTIKKU ’ is an on-line shop which carries only Japanese brands. During the period of the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week TOKYO 2016 S/S, Kevin House, owner of BUTIKKU, visited Japan from England, by invitation from JETRO . Despite the “KAWAII” fashion image that the rest of the world has of Tokyo fashion, BUTIKKU sells sophisticated Japanese brands, and Kevin House is also very experienced in opening pop-up shops in London. We asked him of his impression to Japanese fashion, and how BUTIKKU got started.
On-line shop “BUTIKKU“
How many times have you been to Japan?
I come to Tokyo twice a year, so I think this is my 6th or 7th time. Usually I stay for 10 – 12 days during exhibition season, but this time I’m here for 1 week, and I plan to visit exhibitions of brands that JETRO has introduced to me, and brands that I’ve been interested in.
What do you think about Tokyo, the fashion, the town?
Compared to London, I think there are more people in Tokyo who have unique styles and original ways of coordination. And, I think one of the characteristics of Tokyo as a town is that, large numbers of small shops are gathered together, forming one area. Of course in London too, there are areas where luxury brand shops gather together, but such a mass gathering of independent brands and fashion-minded people in one area, like you can see in Harajuku, I think, is unique to Japan.
BUTIKKU carries Japanese brands only. How did you decide to start an on-line shop?
I started BUTIKKU 2 and a half years ago. Back then, my girlfriend and I were talking about starting a new business together, and as a result of searching all over the world, we decided on focusing on Japan. She used to live in Japan, and loved the fashion and shopping. I liked Japanese fashion and styles too, so we decided to go on an observation tour. Many of the shops and brands that we saw in the Japanese department stores were very interesting. Since both of us liked Japanese brands and styles, and since there were no other shops in the whole wide world with a similar concept, which meant that it would be easier for us to express originality, we decided to start a shop that carries Japanese items only.
On-line shop “BUTIKKU“
What is the reaction of the people of London towards Japanese brands?
So far, BUTIKKU has opened 15 pop-up shops, but every time, the number of customers double when we put up signs in Japanese. I think this proves that the people of London have a positive impression of Japanese brands. Except from MUJI and Uniqlo, it is difficult to find Japanese brand products in London, and seldom is Tokyo fashion week or news of Japanese brands largely covered. But all the more reason why the customers who come to our pop-up shops are excited about being able to see things that they cannot elsewhere, and even those people who do not know about Japanese brands, praise us for the high quality. The only problem is size. Japanese brand clothing does not fit the English physique well, so size is an issue.
Are there any social groups or age groups that are particularly interested in Japanese brands?
The Japanese fashion reported in English TV is usually things that are slightly strange, or “KAWAII” styles, and teenage girls are mainly interested in such styles, but the absolute number is not very large. On the other hand, the brands that we carry are high quality, sophisticated mature brands and draw a clear line between such “KAWAII” brands. The kind of people that find interest and favor our kind of brands are, people in their 30’s or above, who have the ability to ascertain the quality of clothing with their own eyes.
BUTIKKU carries some clothing of Japanese designers that are still virtually unknown to the rest of the world. Where do you get your information?
Like this visit, sometimes we get introduced through JETRO, but we mainly place value on actually coming to Japan and spending hours of searching, walking around with our own two feet. When we were first starting up, we visited Japanese department stores and fashion buildings to research, but now, we personally visit all sorts of shops and try to get as much information as possible. And nowadays, we sometimes ask our Japanese designer friends to introduce new brands to us, or ask friends living in Japan to send us look-books and information on exhibitions.
Last but not least, please tell us what you think of Fashion Week TOKYO.
I’ve been here a few times before, and I always enjoy the shows. However, the most important thing for us buyers, is the opportunity to meet with Japanese designers, after the show. We are a small-scale business, so it is difficult to remain in Japan throughout the whole fashion week period. We have been to the fashion week in London, and exhibitions in Paris, to meet Japanese designers there. But for us, I think it is more important to actually come to Tokyo.
Interview by YUKI HARADA