BANGKOK--A new shopping center in a bustling district in Thailand’s capital city is proving Japan’s status as a youth fashion leader in Asia but also the difficulty of leveraging that prestige for the benefit of Japanese companies.
The name of the Shibuya 19 building, which opened in February in the Phetchaburi area of Bangkok, is an obvious tribute to the famed Shibuya 109 building in Tokyo’s Shibuya district. Each floor inside the center is named after a famous shopping area in Japan, including “Shibuya,” “Shinjuku,” and “Ginza.”
About 450 shops are trading within its walls, but while they handle brand names from Thailand, Singapore and Hong Kong, real Japanese brands are noticeably absent.
The Bangkok center has no official relationship with its Tokyo near namesake but a representative said its operators had wanted a name that gave a feeling of keeping up with the latest trends, even those from outside the country. The representative said the pronunciation of the word “Shibuya” sounded similar to a combination of Thai and Chinese words for “affluence” and “high class.”
Japanese fashion for young women is popular in many parts of Asia and the Shibuya district, in particular, is well known as a trendsetting area. In Thailand, China and other countries, Japanese fashion magazines such as “Ray” and “ViVi” are popular, with some local editions now being published.
But the clothes inspired by those designs are more often than not manufactured by non-Japanese brands outside of Japan.
As well as young Thai shoppers, buyers from other retailers also appear to be frequenting Shibuya 19. Bulk purchases from the Malay Peninsula and the Middle East are fairly common, according to the center.
“I feel Japanese girls’ ‘kawaii’ (cute) culture is liked by everybody, almost regardless of their nationality,” said a 45-year-old designer who owns a clothing outlet on Shibuya 19’s fourth floor. “That is attractive to producers.”
The designer said the shop has received orders from as far afield as Ghana, Indonesia and even Japan itself.
Back in Tokyo, the original Shibuya 109 building is trying to make the most of its fame. Since February last year, its operator has allowed the use of the China UnionPay payment card, which is widely used in China.
“I am sure we have had more customers from China and other parts of Asia in recent years,” a spokesperson said.
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