We need our customers’ support to keep “Made in Japan” alive

At present, less than 2.7% of the clothing worn in Japan is actually made here. That is only 100 million of the four billion garments in circulation.

The influx of garments made outside of Japan is 3.9 billion, yet only 60% (that is 2.3 billion) is sold at its proper price. The remaining 40% end up in outlets or end of season sales.

If only 60% of what is produced can be sold at the original retail price, a company must limit its cost rate to 20% of the said retail price. And once lowering the cost of production becomes the utmost priority, it becomes difficult to make things in Japan.

The movement for businesses to build factories outside of Japan in search of cheap labor began at the turn of the 21st century. This can prolong the life of the business temporarily, but to guarantee cheap labor, the company must order in bulk, often over 9 months to a year in advance. Even if the market is predicted to change (or has changed already), production must proceed based on the initial order. Given the fear of only being able to sell 40% or 50% of what is produced at the proper price, drives companies to lower the cost rate as much as possible, sometimes limiting the cost of production to 15% of the price they set for the product. This is not a customer-centric move and consumers are smart enough to reject this strategy as they become unsure of the true value of the product in relation its quality and price.

If we take our 5900 yen Manhattan Model shirt as an example, and imagine making it abroad, we would only be spending 15% (885 yen) to 20% (1180 yen) on the cost of production. But we choose to make our shirts in Japan and pay our factories 1450 yen per shirt. This is 25% of the price at which we sell the shirt. In addition to the cost of labor, there is of course the cost of the fabric, packaging and freight charges too. We also use luxurious fabrics and natural shell buttons, which cost ten times more than those made of plastic. But if we are able to sell 99% of what we make at the price we wish to sell at, our company can survive without relying on cheap labor abroad. We do not need to rely on pointless price slashing. We can offer something of value to customers. Of course we do our best to eliminate any unnecessary costs and run the business on a low cost operation. We believe in working in small high-skilled groups and we pay our factories in cash – we do not use promissory notes like other businesses, which can often go unpaid.

The 25 years that Kamakura Shirts has been able to exist proves that “Made in Japan” is still possible. Low cost operation, selling products at their proper price, short distance logistics, the assurance of quality… There are plenty of advantages in basing production in Japan. Yet, the proportion of domestically produced goods in comparison to imported goods has continued to shrink since we began in 1993.

“Manufacturing” and “Craftsmanship” were said to be Japan’s specialty. To keep such fine craft alive, we must reevaluate our lifestyle to reflect culture, sensibility and emotions: an approach that promises a better standard of living and self-actualization through the joys of clothing.

Furthermore, people can grow by coming into contact with what is inherently good. What is “good” can take the person to a new level. This is something that can be felt, rather than explained.

People say “Seeing is believing”. But I say “Feeling is believing”. That is why I urge our customers to feel our shirts, not just “see.”