LuxeCo Field Trip 2: Japan’s Universal Fashion Concept Offers Fashion Choices To a Wider Audience

January 15,2020

Today, most brands are focused on the younger generation, while the large elderly population is hidden from view. In China, 17.3 percent of the population is aged 60 or older, while 11.4 percent is aged 65 or older, according to official figures. By the United Nations definitions, China is already a country with an ageing population.

When we talk about an "ageing society," we often think about Japan. In Japanese Fashion, the concept and practice of "Universal Fashion", ie fashion designed for a wider and more diverse demographic, has been around for more than two decades.

"Regardless of age, shape, size, gender, physical function, culture or race, everyone can experience and enjoy the fun of Fashion” , quoted by Universal Fashion Association (UNIFA), a non-profit Japanese local universal fashion design group. This is a good illustration of the real meaning of Universal Fashion. During its trip to Japan in November, Luxe.CO visited Professor Hideo Mori, Vice Chairman of UNIFA to discuss the industry’s status, and how general fashion is developing.

“Garment Universal Design is the product of a combination of industry (apparel, fiber and materials companies), academia (education and social systems), consumers (expressing real needs and exchanging information) and public institutions (analysis, evolution, certification and data collection)", Mori stressed at the 7th International Conference for Universal Design in Bangkok, Thailand, in March.

Founded in 1993, UNIFA is precisely positioned as a “connector" for production, sales and consumption. Through information services and offline activities, UNIFA has built a global network of universal fashion design principles that start from the fashion industry, to promote the design improvement of apparel products and adapt to the needs of different groups.

UNIFA teamed up with Tokyo Prefectural Industrial Technology Research Center to found the institute, not only to discuss industry knowledge and develop professionals, but also to develop practical products, such as MIGU Polo shirts (which are body friendly, and can be easily worn by people with mild hemiplegia, rheumatism and other diseases as they are specially designed to allow for greater shoulder and arm movement space).

UD Parker by IAUD (the International Association for Universal Design) is both suitable for everyday wear and in cases of disaster. When disaster strikes, there are more pockets to carry belongings, plenty of light-emitting materials on clothes to make users easy to spot, and cushioning devices in hats to help resist the impact of hard objects.

Today, some of the UNIFA, IAUD and corporate designs and products of general fashion have been sold in Isetan, Beams and other physical channels. In addition, TV shopping channels and trade shows have also become marketing channels, as they are for general fashion products.

"A lot of times, fashion is just a commodity to sell, and the lack of publicity and marketing is one of the main reasons why the popularity of general fashion is not high," Mori said, in admitting that they need to continue to work to popularise the concept of universal fashion.

Since 2005, UNIFA has held annual fashion shows in nursing homes and other places where the elderly gather, with the elderly volunteering to model. In 2014, UNIFA held the Universal Fashion Festa at the Hollywood Hall in Roppongi Hills Tokyo, with fashion shows, exhibitions, lectures and other comprehensive activities, with the participation of local Japanese brands and French designer brands.

From the perspective of industry standards, UNIFA has set up a product recommendation system and launched the "U" logo (below) -- all products with this logo are products conforming to these general standards.

IAUD (International Association for Universal Design) awards the "IAUD International Design Award" to recognise organisations and individuals who have made outstanding contributions in the field of general design. IAUD has brought more industry groups and individuals into the field of general design. Since its establishment in 2010, IAUD's winners have included Japanese communication giants NTT docomo, Panasonic, KAO, KOKUYO, Fujitsu, Mitsubishi Electric and others.

General fashion does not only need to develop in Japan, but ideally is supported by a global network. IAUD’s International General Design Conference is a platform for bringing global talents together.

While China has a large and rapidly growing market with a large number of young consumers, looking more broadly at a wider age group may be another source of consumer growth. The development of the concept and industrial structure of Universal Fashion in Japan will provide important reference for China's Fashion industry.


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