This week The Women’s Room has been toTokyo with the day job and although a very packed schedule allowed little room for play, we did manage to sneak in some personal shopping and observations on Japanese retail.
Firstly, the quality of clothes made in Japan is very high, both in fabrication and production, which is a joy for us older women, as you know we’re pretty fussy about this now we can recognise good from bad (we’ve had enough experience at it by now). Even simple T shirts come in thickly smooth cotton and with tiny stitched seams and no loose threads. Socks were a revelation, who knew they could feel so silky or come in so many intricate coloured patterns?
Secondly, the service we received in store was breathtakingly attentive in a way that made us believe the sweet sales assistants really cared about us. Americans’ of course are very good at serving you in shops, but there is always that underling feeling that it’s all about the sale. In Japan they just want you to have a lovely time in their stores and humbly offer every assistance until they are sure you are happy. Every customer who comes through the door is greeted with a ‘hello and welcome’ that sounds wholly convincing, even though they must say it a thousand times a day. After the often exasperatingly bad service in some UK shops we've been into recently (and if they don't get better soon, we're going to name and shame) this was a real treat.
They also have a great sense of humour, which is just as well since we broke many taboos when blundering our way through their elegant culture. Wearing shoes in the changing room, handing your credit card to the assistant instead of placing it (the right way around) on the tray provided and saying ‘no don’t bother to wrap it I’m sticking it straight into my suitcase’ were all the wrong things to do, but were forgiven with a charming giggle and beautiful smile.
And then there's the packaging, which is so good you hardly want to take it apart when you get home, everything is boxed or swaddled in tissue paper, sometimes both and then popped into a decorative carrier you’ll want to take home to show everyone. Due to a painfully bad exchange rate of 128 yen to the pound currently, everything is expensive, but we couldn’t resist the opportunity to buy something, mostly so if anyone asks where we got it from we can smugly say ‘oh I bought this on my last trip to Tokyo’. Shallow, we know, but small pleasures….
Our favourite clothes shop that we could actually afford to buy anything in was called Journal Standard, which had a gorgeous selection of rumpled linen in whites and neutrals, washed leather jackets, tiny floral print chiffon dresses and finely striped casual jersey T shirts and knits. All done with a French-Farm-House-meets-Jigsaw-in-Quality- Fabrics kinda way. The top above is made from three different sorts of finely woven cotton lace fabric, basted securely together with fine, tightly packed stitching and a wisp of cotton ribbon. It was about £200.