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After Recession, How Yohji Yamamoto Protect the Businese?


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Case Study for Yohji Yamamoto
After Recession, How Yohji Yamamoto Protect His Business? Compare with Comme des Garcons.

University for the Creative Art
Directed by Mo Tomaney Written by Yu-Han, Lin (Monica) Date: 19th January 2012 MA Fashion Management and Marketing

Yohji Yamamoto is a Japanese poet, a philosopher of Eastern aesthetics, and as known, he is a fashion designer. When people talk about Yohji Yamamoto, it seems impossible to discuss his early work without referencing Rei Kawakubo. Both of them were born in the war era, obviously, it can be told from their collections that the later stage of the Second World War left some significant influences. Their concept of fashion and design are similar, and also the way they express their concerning about societal and global issues are usually positive. A functional elegance and sobriety is their philosophy. As people know, black is the essential colour they always apply in their every seasonal collection. As Yamamoto explained, “Black is modest and arrogant at the same time…It means that many things go together, yet it takes different aspects in many fabrics…But above all black says…don’t bother me!” (2000 cited in English, 2011: 46) Besides, their attitude about choosing fabrics and respect for the wholeness of the body are similarly severe and carefully. The aesthetic they present is considered very ideological. For example, bias-cutting, irregularly overlapping design, applying washed fabrics and dark colour, anti-fashion, and anti-beauty are all their well-known characteristics. Furthermore, the most important concept they tried to express to the audience from their works is “keep looking things in different way and make it creatively.” As the slogan printed on the labels of Yohji Yamamoto’s women’s range in the 1980s, “There is nothing so boring as a neat and tidy look.” (1966 cited in English, 2011:41) Same as Rei Kawakubo, she asserts that she does not have a set definition of beauty, “I find beauty in the unfinished and random… I want to see things differently to search for beauty. I want to find something nobody has ever found… it is meaningless to create something predictable.” (Kawakubo, 2004 cited in English. 2011: 74) Interestingly, these two visionary Japanese designers presented their first collection together in Tokyo in 1976 and then Paris in 1981. The designers seemed to share the same vision and the same philosophy, might also basically shared the same success in business. However, after reached the top point of its sales volume with120 billions Yen per month in August 1999, the number decreased dramatically, with only 75 billions Yen per month in August 2009. In comparison, Comme des Garcons keep busy to collaborate with numerous brands and make money from its endless collaborations. And the result of its aggressive marketing strategies is that the company’s annual grosses growing in evidence, with 14 billions Yen every year. Comme des Garcons knows very well the way of surviving in such the bad time of economic, manipulating the market smartly with her unique marketing skills, and indeed, always surprise and satisfy the most customers. Contrast with Comme des Garcons, Yamamoto was too focus on his design work to neglect the finance situation.

Research Purpose
This research project aims to clarify the reasons of Yohji Yamamoto Inc.’s bankruptcy happened in 2009, and via referring Comme des Garcons’s business model and marketing strategies to specify what’s the difference between them in managing a business, and how could Yohji Yamamoto enhance its competitive advantage.

The secondary research was mainly adopted in this research project. Reading exclusively the books and the previous essays help me to understand Yohji Yamamoto and his business deeply, and also help me to understand some analysis tools and models of business. Besides, online research include the previous news, its official website, and videos which are some interview pieces and fashion shows. And also reviewed two documentary films recording the designer’s thought and process of preparing the fashion shows and exhibition etc. Shop visiting as the primary research is also adopted in this project. Although photographs is not allowed in the shop and the request of interviewing manager was being rejected, it is still helpful for analyzing the difference of visual merchandising style between Y’s and Comme des Garcons’ shop in London.

Fig.1. Drawn by Humor Chic, 2009

Business Analysis
The position of Yohji Yamamoto will be analyzed below. Its production is mainly designed for the group of office workers age from twenty-five to thirty-five years old.

The price is set at upper level from 500 Pounds to 1500 pounds, not as high as other luxury brands but also not as reasonable as other designer’s brands. And the products are generally unique and high quality. As to places, the stores are usually located in the expansive area of some big cities such as Paris, London and New York etc. Moreover, even though its promotion activity is passive, lack of TV commercial, each promotion campaign is artistic and full of Yamamoto’s design sensibility.

Yohji Yamamoto • Production is unique and creative, emphasizing the cutting to present the beauty of body • The products are considered as the pieces of artwork. • The quality of clothes is assumed as high and delicate • It is considered as a high reputation high-end fashion brand • The price is too high for target customers and no discount. • Production is too ideological for mass market. • The company never collaborate with famous pop stars for representing its promotional campaigns. • Crossover with sport brand, adidas and bring fashion into sport suit field and combine both fashion and sport as a new concept. • Present collections at the main fashion events seasonally • Collaborated with many art events, such as films and dramas. Comm des Garcons • Designer’s brand with high reputation. • Production is unique and well recognized. • The materials chosen is carefully with high quality. • Usually cooperate with famous architects and interior designer to build a very strong and creative store image. • The official website is too confused for users to access. Weakness


• Less crossover opportunities with other fast fashion brands • Insufficiently in promotional campaign, for example, TV commercial campaign • The price was set as upper level, it might lose attraction for the costumers of mass market

• Collaborated with many high street fashion brands, such as H&M, Levi’s, and Uniqlo etc. gives customers more chances to approach the designer’s Opportunity production. • Produced the lines for T-shirts with her design⎯ PLAY and BLACK ⎯to attract young group who like her design but cannot afford the money for other products. • The advertising is very eye-catching. • Always bring new ideas to the customers. For example, market based shop • The price is too high for target consumers Threat

Communicate with costumers
Fashion Shows
In every season from 1981, the designer attend the fashion week and present collections at six main cities⎯ Milan, Paris, New York, London, Tokyo and Madrid.

Fig. 2. (left) Yohji Yamamoto F/W 2007 Fig. 3. (right) Yohji Yamamoto F/W 2010-2011, Paris Fashion Week

Visual Merchandising
There is a clear difference in store image between both shops in London. Compared to Comme des Garcons, the style of Yohji Yamamoto’s shop is more simple, calm and sober. The all white and rectilineal look are in keeping with Yamamoto's retail aesthetic. But, on the other hand, this kind of interior design concept might give customers a solemn impression that makes customers uncomfortable or feel bored, or even not dare to step into the store.

Fig. 4, 5. Yohji Yamamoto store in London, Image taken by Yu-Han, Lin in 2012

Fig. 6. Yohji Yamamoto store in Antwerp Fig. 7. Yohji Yamamoto flagship store in Paris

In contrast, Rei Kawakubo spent considerable energy into the visual design of art, advertising and interior design store area. Dover Street Market is a market-based shop with many different designers’ collection and it is a place full of fun, with telephone boxes as fitting rooms, and delivering different massages with various elements of innovative interior design in every corner. Besides, irregular placing the display cabinets provide customers more funs to discover the store. And surprisingly, it serves fresh coffee and snack on the top floor. Therefore, people could have various reasons to visit the shop.

Fig. 8, 9, 10, 11. Dover Street Market in London

2011, A retrospective exhibition “Yohji Making Move” celebrating his life and work at V&A museum in London

Fig. 12, 13, 14. Yohji Yamamoto exhibition at V&A, London.

Digital channel
Official website Documentary: “The note book on cities and clothes” (Wim Wenders, 1989) “This is my dream” (Theo Stanley, 2011)

2002, “Talking to myself” 2005, “A Magazine curated by Yohji Yamamoto” 2011, “My Dear Bomds”

Marketing Strategies
It is believed that Comme des Garcons is more commercial than Yohji Yamamoto. Because Comme des Garcons is devoted to create the new ways of selling her endless and unigue visions, focusing on marketing strategies and promotions. As Kawakubo said, “I ‘design’ the company, not just clothes…New interesting business ideas, revolutionary retail strategies, unexpected collaborations, nurturing of in-house talent, all are examples of Comme des Garcon’s creation” (2002 cited in English, 2011: 76) Comparing to Comme des Garcons, Yamamoto is basically being considered as an artist rather than a businessman. Insufficient promotion campaigns and sober images might make its mainly target customers be unfamiliar with the brand. From business point of view, it is not enough for a brand only delivered the high quality and unique production but lack of promotional activities. That is to say, the company should build a relationship with customers in today’s customers-driven economy. Then, the analysis for their marketing strategies will be carried up in three different aspects. Firstly, from both advertising campaigns we can see, Yohji Yamamoto didn’t produce any TV commercial before; only promote the advertisements in the fashion magazines certain time of the year. From 1980s till recently, Yohji Yamamoto maintain the same aesthetics philosophy, almost advertisements were made in black and white, and no collaboration with famous celebrities. Although these advertisements are exactly graceful, simple and full of Yamamoto’s sensibility of aesthetics, it generally still lack of attraction for the mass customers.

Fig.15. (left): Yohji Yamamoto 1999 Fall campaign Fig.16. (right): Yohji Yamamoto 1998 campaign with M/M Paris Photograph by Inez Van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin

Left to Right: Fig. 17. S/S 1989 Fig. 18. S/S 1990 Fig. 19. F/W 1988, Photography by Nick Knight

By contrast, Rei Kawakubo’s advertisements are more eye-catching and make people stop and think—what the commodity is this ironic? will I go buy a shirt? How is this fashion? As the pictures below, people might did not get the message of these creased faces, but these images probably increase customers’ curiosity. Besides, the color she used is simple but conspicuous.

Fig. 20. Comme des Garcons Shirt ad campaign, 2010 Fig. 21. Comme des Garcons for H&M ad campaign, 2008

Secondly, there is a well-known key strategy Comme des Garcons adopted for the business to help her enhance its popularity called “guerrilla marketing strategic”. This untraditional marketing strategy is aimed to get the most profit with the least investment. It is the concept of building a pop-up shop that fits right in with the Entertainment Economy, the Experience Economy, the Surprise Economy, and so on. According to the fashion-marketing journal, “It's about surprising consumers with temporary 'performances', guaranteeing exclusivity because of the limited time span.” As expectedly, this kind of untraditional marketing strategy is quite popular among the young shoppers—the generation who loves the new ideas and taking risks—and it certainly stimulated the consumption market and against economy crisis.

The last one worth to mention is a very popular marketing tactics during the recent years—crossover collaboration, which is a partnership that benefit from each other. Luxury brands via collaborating with fast fashion brands could increase its popularity and be closer with mass customers. As the magazine «Mobile world» reported in 2010, “crossover is a phenomenon that takes a company by storm. Designers, marketers, and brand managers find new sources of inspiration to communicate with their customers …Crossover can enhance a brand.” Apparently, the collaboration with H&M in 2008 helped Comme des Garcons getting much closer with mass customers, selling the incredible design with friendly price. According to the Shanghai press, the CdG X H&M collections were sold out in ten minutes when it was released in Shanghai H&M flagship shop.

It is the show received the most compliments and admirations. The models were dressed as the brides, and then stopped mid-runway, unzipped a hidden compartment in her silk hoop-dress and pulled out white satin sandals and a floor-skimming cardigan. Then she unzipped another pocket and produced hat, gloves and bouquet. The dress is named ” Secret Dress. ”

Fig. 22, 23, 24

In Yohji Yamamoto's conceptual autumn/winter 2009-10 show, models wear as Geishawhite make-up and red lips are painted onto faces. Black coats with incredible detail come out one after the other, broken finally by nude woollen coats and eventually scarlet red, as five models hold hands in a circle.

Fig. 25, 26, 27

The latest collection presented in the Paris Fashion Week.

Fig. 28, 29, 30

Issue: Bankruptcy in 2009
After presenting the F/W 2009 collection in Paris, Yohji Yamamoto announced unexpectedly that it has filed for bankruptcy protection in Tokyo District Court. There are a lot of reasons pushing the company into debts of more than sixty billion Yen, exceeding its assets.

In June of 2009, Yohji Yamamoto absence from 2009 Men’s wear fashion week in Paris. The spokesperson admitted that the financial situation of the company was affected by global financial tsunami. Furthermore, after some large-scale flagship stores were opened successively in Paris, Tokyo and New York, the company had already no spare money to make preparation for fashion show. Besides, in October of the same year, Yohji Yamamoto presented the new collection as expected at the Women’s wear fashion week in Paris, but the list of invitee were scaled down. And the last issue is that two stores in New York were closed down unexpectedly.

The main reason is that the year of 2009, the whole world was suffering from the economic recession, and the consumer confidence was murky. During such of the difficult time of economic, some big and famous companies such as Christian Lacroy and Escada announced bankruptcy sequentially as well. In addition, the depression of global economic influenced especially Japanese market severely. For instance, the Japanese Yen strengthened considerably, making Japanese goods more expensive to potential shoppers around the world. And fast fashion powerhouse Uniqlo reported that an increasing number of Japanese consumers are choosing their low-priced clothing over more expensive options. (Tokyo Fashion News, 2009) Another main reason lead its financial crisis is that the sales volume of the company decreased dramatically, but the company expanded branch stores around the world aggressively in two years. It seems the company invested too much money in the early stage, yet in the end the company could not cope with the failure of the fund’s turnover. There are numerous minor reasons caused by inappropriate conduction and decisions. One of them is that too many sub brands lead the company to deal its finance situation more complicatedly and difficultly. And the other speculation is that maybe Yohji Yamamoto was too concentrated in his design works to neglect the aspect of managing and operating. As himself said, " I consider myself to be a designer first… I think one reason that the company has come to this is that I left too much to others, I was told about the positive things, but many of the bad things didn't reach my ears." (British Vogue, 2009)

“I am a designer, I will go on designing until I die. This is my way of talking about 2009, 2010…” (Yohji Yamamoto, 2009 cited by British Vogue, 2009) The company was seeking for the potential rescuer to help rebuilding the business, and it is “Integral Inc.” Integral Inc. created a special purpose company to acquire the

Yamamoto business and assets and this will become the new Yohji Yamamoto Inc. with Yamamoto himself retaining a minority stake. And Yamamoto would still be the head designer of the brand. According to the interview in 2011, Yamaomoto said that after this financial accident, the company would change the commercial structure to become stronger. For example, he kept the clothes commercial and put all of his avant-garde concept into the hair and makeup instead of the pieces that need to sell in stores. And then the company launched a new sub brand “s’yte” on September 1st, 2011. Although the company has already had nine sub brands, the price of existed sub brands is not so close to the mass customers. “s'yte” is a Yohji Yamamoto’s casual wear brand. “It aims to casually suit those who have never worn the company’s other brands. The first lineup has high quality T-shirts sewn by a long-established Japanese workshop.” (Yohji Yamamoto’s official website)

Suggestion and Conclusion
After analyzed various aspects of Yohji Yamamoto Inc. above, I found that the fashion market produced a polarization responds of Yohji Ymamamoto. Only very specific customers have high royalty of Yohji Yamamoto. However, the rest of mass customers are not really familiar with the brand, or knew him only because of Y-3. In contrast, with the similar avant-garde style, Comme des Garcons is more popular and more acceptable than Yamamoto, according to the market respondence. From different aspects analyzed before, the main adjustment Yamamoto should consider is they should contribute to develop the promotion campaign to enhance its popularity and get closer with customers. And then focus on creating or applying some interesting marketing strategies that could shake the market and reveries the market respondence. First of all, although the target market was set at between 25 and 35 years old, the actual shoppers in the stores are around 35 to 45 years old. In order to attract more young customers, the company should produce the promotion campaign which is specific aimed at younger shoppers. For example, the 25 to 35 years old customers generally use the Internet very often, they usually access on the Internet for social networking and browsing websites. It is a extremely huge and has high potential market from internet. Thus I suggest that the company should take serious of online shopping market, and pay more efforts on promoting products and selling brand image via social media. For example, the hottest channel in recent years would be Facebook or Twitter, but I could not search any official account of Yohji Yamamoto on the Facebook. If the company set up an account on the Facebook, they could upload information regularly, and the mass customers could follow their news and collections, and even communicate with the brand easily. On the other hand, the company also could receive the mass customers’ feedback and responds effortlessly. For instance, Dolce & Gabbana managed its page very well, with around 37665 thousands fans on the Facebook. In conclusion, Yohji Yamamoto should consider more about the new ways of marketing strategy for attracting younger shoppers. Bring more innovative ideas to the market, not only focus on the collections. (Total: 3117 Words)

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Fig. 13. Knight, N, 1988 F/W 1988 [Photography] At: (Access on 17:01:2011) Fig. 14. Comme des Garcons Shirt ad campaign (c.2010) [Ad It Mark It] At: (Access on 17:01:2011) Fig. 15. Comme des Garcons for H&M ad campaign (c.2008) [Popbee] At: (Access on 17:01:2011) Fig. 16, 17, 18. Yohji Yamamoto S/S ” Secret Dress” (c.1999) [electronic print] At: (Access on 17:01:2011) Fig. 19, 20, 21. Yohji Yamamoto F/W (c.2009) [electronic print] At: (Access on 17:01:2011) Fig. 22, 23, 24. Yohji Yamamoto F/W (c.2010) [electronic print] At: (Access on 17:01:2011)

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