Japan can be an interesting market for Norwegian designers. 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 still enjoy success in the Japanese market. These companies share several common factors of success, such as long history, good quality and sleek design, as well as focus on sustainability and eco-friendly products. These are the qualities that resonate with the Japanese customers.
To give an example, Norwegian Icons works with promoting Norwegian design on daily basis. Norwegian Icons is 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 has a show-room in Tokyo.
At first, they sold reproductions of vintage design items, but after a while they also opened up to selling new designs, choosing designers who they believe have potential.
We have talked to Wakiko Fukuda, working for Norwegian Icons in Tokyo, and she told us that the Japanese and Norwegians have quite similar aesthetic sense – both like items with good design and good functionality. Scandinavian design is big in Japan, and the Japanese are always looking for new designs.
Many fashion companies are interested in the Japanese market, and some of them are 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 to be 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.
There is no one good formula for success. There are companies that succeed and companies that do not. Japan is an extremely demanding market, where the customer is seen as a “god”. Customer expectations must be met, meaning that quality should not be compromised and paying attention to detail. Finding a good distributor is also a must. All this requires time and resources, but this is the minimum requirement.
For the last few years, Innovation Norway Tokyo together with the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Tokyo have been organizing a fashion event with Norwegian Fashion Hub. Five new brands have recently visited Japan to meet with Japanese players: ESP, FWSS, Aurland Shoe, IBEN, and Cala Jade.
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 was 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.
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