Japan is probably an interesting market for Norwegian designers. The Japanese consumer is detail-oriented and quality conscious. Good Norwegian design with an interesting story might find some open doors into the Japanese market.
There are many examples of forerunners from Norway in Japan. Ekornes, Stokke and Helly Hansen are some of the companies that have been in Japan the longest, and whom still see success in the Japanese market. There are several common factors of success between these companies, such as long history, good quality and sleek design, as well as focuses on sustainability and eco-friendly products. These are the qualities that resonate with the Japanese market.
To name an example, Norwegian Icons works with promoting Norwegian design on a daily basis. They are an initiative dedicated to telling the world about the best of Norwegian interior design from 1940 to 1975. It all started as a series of exhibitions in Oslo, New York and Tokyo. Today, Norwegian Icons have a show-room in Tokyo.
At first they sold vintage designs in new production, but after a while they also opened up to selling new designs, choosing designers where they see potential.
We talked to Wakiko Fukuda, working for Norwegian Icons in Tokyo, and she told us that Japanese and Norwegians have quite similar esthetic sense – both segments like items with good design and good functionality. Scandinavian design is big in Japan, and they are always looking for new designs.
Many fashion companies are interested in the Japanese market, and some of them are even coming to Japan in order to expand their business activities. Examples include Holzweiler, Norwegian Rain and Tom Wood.
Attractive, but high competition
Japan is considered as one of the most attractive markets for design and fashion. One of the reasons for that is that the Japanese market is relatively open to new things and trends. Being an attractive market naturally increases the level of competition and makes the country a demanding market.
Out market adviser in Innovation Norway, Hiroko Tominaga, tells you what may take you to success in the Japanese market even though there is no one good formula for success:
“You will find companies both that succeed and not succeeded . The difference is that Japan is an extremely demanding market, where the customer is seen as a “god”. You have to meet the costumers expectations: meaning that quality should not be compromised and taking attention to details. They are only the starting point. Finding a good distributor is also a must. All these require time and resources, but I would say that this is the minimum requirement”.
Promote in StyleNORWAY
A good way to promote your design into Japan is probably through the magazine StyleNORWAY. The StyleNORWAY project is managed by the Norwegian Chamber of Commerce in Japan. This magazine, written entirely in Japanese, aims to promote Norwegian lifestyle and culture to Japanese readers. The magazine is the result of a project which initiated in 2010 by the Norwegian Design Network, a network of importers of Norwegian furniture and interior products in Japan. They started to promote jointly the concept of Norwegian lifestyle, “StyleNORWAY”, to differentiate themselves in the market.
The project works toward visibility for individual brands and products based on the knowledge of the Japanese market as well as development within the Scandinavian lifestyle retailing in Japan by jointly raising the awareness and recognition of the brand “Norway” and Norwegian lifestyle in Japan.
Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions and any good & creative ideas to share with us. We will assist you in any way we can. For further questions, please contact:
Market adviser, Innovation Norway in Tokyo
Author: Kristin Irene Kristensen