Son of the Cheese and Kandy Town champion Tokyo millennials’ new localism
With a surge in Japanese Instagram users, youths in Japan are now flooded with new trends and brands from around the world. Foreign brands’ influence on social platforms has been extremely strong, especially in retail categories like fashion, and the effects are clearly felt in Tokyo’s major shopping districts. However, as non-Japanese brands are constantly hyping new global trends, millenials are starting to look to their local communities for inspiration.
Small Japanese fashion labels like the street brand Son of the Cheese are benefiting from this new localism. The brand revolves around a community space on the streets of Naka-Meguro for local skaters, photographers, artists, models, and other creatives to come together and exchange ideas. Regulars come to skate the signature homemade backyard pool, while casual visitors enjoy a bottle of beer on the porch. Consumers are attracted to the more ‘real’, local culture behind the brand, an advantage for their apparel collection over other street brands.
Kandy Town, an up-coming Japanese hip-hop group, is another successful example of an entity answering to youth’s need for a local take on global youth culture. The group is composed of 15 members, including MC’s, DJs, producers, art directors, and even engineers. MC YOUNG JUJU is a part of a film crew called THE TAXi FILMS, while MC Ryohu is a producer who also debuted as an actor in 2016. What ties them together is the local upbringing of the crew. Most of the members were raised in the Setagaya ward of Tokyo, and are childhood friends who happened to make hip-hop part of their career.
Brands are now trying to tap into this sense of local community through collaborations. Reebok recently teamed up with Kandy Town to create an original music video, making their signature sneakers an integral part of the story. In the music video ‘Gift’, the camera follows each member of the group visiting their usual haunts, like barbers, tattoo parlors, and apparel shops. Every encounter involves a unique handshake, showing the ties that exist inside the community. Each member gives away a pair of sneakers, showing their appreciation to a friend. By welcoming reebok into the local hood, Kandy Town gives their products a stronger connection to Tokyo kids than another pair of sneakers from a foreign brand.
While special or limited products, like the recent Supreme x Louis Vuitton, create spikes of interest amongst trend hungry youth in Tokyo, brands can also leverage community to create deeper, more long-term relationships with consumers.
- Article by Hideki Soejima