Zara and H&M instantly incorporate new, exciting fashion trends and blandardise them with generic imitations. But in Japan one company is fighting to make premium fashion brands – from Hugo Boss to Gucci to Luis Vuitton – both accessible and affordable. Introducing: Ragtag.
From Europe, Ragtag’s innovative concept looks distinctly modern. But it was actually founded by Harajuku Takeshita-dori in Tokyo way back in 1985, and now boasts 14 stores, 336 employees and sales of €40 million. All of which is even more impressive once you discover the clothes they sell are all second-hand.
But Ragtag is a far cry from the second-hand stores you find in Europe and the US, with their musky smell and rag-piles strewn randomly on the floor, more like a hoarder’s garage than a shopfront. No, a Ragtag store is trendy, sleek and sophisticated by design. They are aware that the storefront is an opportunity to create an inspiring brand experience. The space is airy and the decor chic. The clothes are displayed as styled outfits and colour blocked into sections. Different branches even have specific ‘concepts’. The Harajuku and Shibuya stores are more ‘street’ style, while Shinjuku is ‘business’ and the Ginza RT store is for a mature clientele, full of classic styles and glitz. A Ragtag store is a brand experience
With these distinctly modern shop-fronts, along with a sleek logo, a well designed online store (available, alas, only in Japan), intelligent branding, a stock turnover that puts H&M to shame, and a scalable model, Ragtag is completely reframing the second-hand industry. Japanese students no longer have to stand outside high-street shop windows, dreaming of the Stella McCartney shirt they can’t afford. Now they pop next door to Ragtag and buy it with their pocket money.
There is almost nothing like this in Europe, and we hope to see the second-hand industry learn from this forward thinking Japanese brand. But there are lessons to be learned for the luxury brands too. That they should cherish their history and legacy, rather than burning stock in Burberry-like fashion-massacres. That, instead, they could mix and match their offering, and make vintage items another arm of their brand. Somewhere out there a schoolgirl with a copy of Vogue is dreaming of such a world where she can afford those brands. Actually, aren’t we all.