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Larme Shopping Guide: Japanese Brands

Buying Japanese brands can be easy and affordable!

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6 May 2016

Larme Kei/Girly Fashion Shopping Guide: Japanese Brands

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With the right methods, buying Japanese brands can be easy and affordable!

This is is the first part of a two-part shopping guide for girly fashion/Larme kei. The second part will be on buying Larme-style items in the West.


Contents:

I. Girly/Larme brands
II. Buying new items online
III. Shopping and package forwarding services (including a basic guide to Tenso)
IV. Buying used items online
V. Buying Japanese brands on a budget


I. Girly/Larme brands

I refer to the styles and brands in this post as both "girly style" and "Larme style." Larme is considered a girly style magazine. Girly style is often broader than the Larme aesthetic alone. But in many cases (and especially with Larme's rising popularity), these two terms are synonymous.


An important note:

Most girly or Larme-compatible brands do not exclusively produce pieces that fall under the girly and/or Larme style. Larme's status as a magazine-driven style differs from subculture fashions like Lolita fashion or Gyaru fashion, which have several magazines and brands of their own.

Since the Larme aesthetic is not a subculture fashion, its elements are less static and often evolve. This is especially true since Larme is such a young magazine. The brands associated with Larme/girly style may also change. 

List of brands:

This list includes brands commonly featured in the magazine, brands favored by Larme models, brands that have done collaborations with Larme, and brands that tend to carry items suitable for the the style. 

Most of these brands also produce pieces that are less suitable for the Larme aesthetic. It's best to determine for yourself whether certain pieces suit the Larme style (or a Larme sub-style).

I have linked the brands below to their official sites or webshops. (And some of the their official sites do not directly sell their own merchandise--you might have to search for other webshops that do.)
17℃ by Blondoll
Ank Rouge (As of March 2017, Ailand no longer accepts foreign cards. But you can also purchase Ank Rouge items from Fashionwalker and The Shibuya109 Net Shop.)
Bubbles
Cannabis Ladies
Crayme,
EATME
earth music&ecology
E hyphen world gallery BonBon
ESPERANZA
Fallin'
Grimoire Almadel
Honey Cinnamon
HONEY MI HONEY
Honey Salon by foppish
lilLilly
little sunny bite
Katie
merry jenny
MILK
Nina mew
mon Lily (Rakuten Global Market site here)
one after another NICE CLAUP
one spo
one way
Pameo Pose
Pui
REDYAZEL
Secret Honey
Spinns
titty&Co.
WEGO
Verybrain
the Virgins

(To reiterate: This is not meant meant to be an exclusive or all-encompassing list. The variety of brands suitable for Larme style may evolve as the Larme aesthetic evolves. Please let me know if you think other brands should be added to this list!)


II. Buying new items online

The vast majority of girly/Larme-style brands have shopping cart systems. If you live outside of Japan, you have to consider (1) whether the brand ships to foreign countries and (2) whether the web shop accepts foreign credit or debit cards. 

You can find out whether the brand ships to foreign countries by looking at the shipping address input forms or by reading the shop's FAQ (if they have one). You can check if the web shop accepts foreign cards by entering your card number to test it. If the system won't accept your card number, the web shop likely does not accept foreign cards.

If the brand ships to foreign countries, it likely also accepts foreign cards. In that case, you're all set. If the brand has a Rakuten Global Market web shop (such as with mon Lily), then it can ship to foreign countries.

If the brand doesn't ship to foreign countries but accepts foreign cards, you have the option to use a package forwarding service or a shopping service (I will explain these two services in greater detail in Section III below). It is generally cheaper and easier to use a package forwarding service than a shopping service. You will have more control over how you want to buy and combine packages.

If the brand doesn't ship to foreign countries and does not accept foreign cards, you will have to use a shopping service. The shopping service will pay the web shop with a Japanese credit or debit card and ship the items to you.

Many Japanese brands also have other authorized retailers selling their goods. These are often aggregate shopping sites that carry multiple brands. Some Japanese brands (such as Fallin' and EATME) only sell their goods on these sites.

The following aggregate shopping sites carry girly/Larme-style brands:

Fashionwalker 
Shibuya109 Net Shop 
Stylife
Zozotown (does no
Ailand (The only girly-style brand it carries is Ank Rouge. And as of March 2017, Ailand no longer accepts foreign cards....)

(Please let me know if I am missing any!)


Some budget shopping/sales shopping tips:

It's particularly worth it to browse the individual web shops and the aggregate shopping sites during sales seasons. The winter/New Year's sales in December-January and the summer sales in June-July are really good. There are also quite good Golden Week sales (which we are in the midst of)! The brands themselves generally have sale items during that time, but aggregate shopping sites may add additional discounts. 

If you have an email that you can use to receive promotions, I highly recommend that you sign up for the Japanese brands' mailing lists. There are often quite good deals that you might miss out on otherwise!



III. Shopping and package forwarding services

Shopping services:

Shopping services will purchase the item on your behalf and then forward the package to your address.

The service flow may differ for each shopping service, but it generally goes like this:

1. You contact the shopping service about the items you want to buy.
2. The shopping service representative responds to your email/form and tells you about the status of the items (if they are in stock, if seller requires any special actions, etc.). They will ask you to send the payment or deposit.
3. You send them your payment (usually through PayPal).
4. The shopping service purchases the item on your behalf either online or in person.
5. The item arrives at the shopping service's address.
6. The shopping service representative contacts you and tells you how much you need to pay for the overseas shipping and other fees.
7. You send them your payment.
8. The shopping service ships the item to your address.

Shopping services can be used for physical stores, web shops with shopping cart systems, auction sites, and flea market sites/mobile applications. Not every shopping service is willing to provide services for each of these shopping modes though, so you should check beforehand.

Buyee is a special case of a shopping service. It is a proxy buying service. It allows you to purchase from Yahoo Auctions, Zozotown, Rakuten, and Amazon.co.jp directly (as in you would personally bid on an auction item). You just have to use Buyee's own interface.

There are many shopping services available. A simple web search will show quite a few of them. Be sure to check the reviews of a shopping service before deciding to use it.

Here is what I have been personally using:

Package forwarding services:

Package forwarding services provide you with a Japanese shipping address when you register for an account. They will ship the item overseas to your actual address after it arrives at their warehouse.

The service flow generally goes like this:

1. You register for an account with a package forwarding service.
2. The service provides you with your personal Japanese address and phone number that you can use to fill out the address form in shopping cart systems.
3. You add the items that you want to the cart of webshop and check out normally. You fill in the address form with your Japanese address. You wait for the items to be shipped.
4. The items arrive at the package forwarding service's address. 
5. The package forwarding service contacts you to let you know the items have arrived. It tells you the total shopping fees and the overseas shipping cost.
6. You send them the payment.
7. The package forwarding service ships the item to your address.

I personally use Tenso and would highly recommend it! Tenso is well-run, efficient, organized, and easy to navigate. I have been using Tenso for shopping cart systems in the Japanese brands' individual sites, for shopping cart systems in aggregate shopping sites, and for flea market sites that accept foreign cards.


Basic Tenso Shopping Guide and Tips 

(Originally from my Tumblr, but I decided to share it here as well.)


1. How to input your Tenso address

Tenso has a very helpful guide for inputting your Tenso address here. I can elaborate a bit more on the different input fields!

The address of Tenso’s warehouse looks like this:
〒120-0023
東京都 足立区 千住曙町42-4 TS472467 転送コム

The first field on address forms is usually asking for your name. Your write your surname in the field labeled “セイ” and your first name in the field labeled “メイ.” You often have to input your name in katakana. Here is a handy katakana input keyboard. Since all Tenso addresses are the same with the exception of the recipient’s name, it is very important that you enter your name correctly. Make sure you input the name that Tenso has on record for you.

The field in the address form that is labeled “郵便番号” is asking you for your postal code. “〒” denotes the postal code. “120-0023″ is the postal code, and you usually input it without the hyphen.

The field that is labeled “都道府県” is asking you for your prefecture. Tenso’s warehouse is located in Adachi, so you put “足立区” here.

The field labeled “番地” is asking you for your subarea/block/building number. You put “千住曙町42-4” here.

The field labeled “建物名” is asking for the building name. You put “TS472467 転送コム” here.

Before I got used to filling out Japanese address fields with my Tenso address, I would open three tabs/windows: (1) The address form that I am currently filling out, with auto-translate turned off, (2) The same page with the address form but with auto-translate on, so I can see the fields in English, and (3) Tenso’s How to Enter your Tenso Address guide. Then I would carefully match up the Japanese on tab (1) with the English on tab (2) and the filled out example on tab (3).

2. The package forwarding process

Once the web store receives your order with your Tenso warehouse address, they’ll deliver the package there. Some sites will send you a tracking number, some will not. Tenso will look at the name on your package to figure out who it belongs to.

It should take 1-2 business days after your package arrives at Tenso for Tenso to process your shipment and email you about receiving it. You’ll then be able to see estimates for the international shipping cost and (if applicable) apply  for package consolidation.

After you pay for international shipping, Tenso will send out your package and email you your tracking number (usually within a day of payment).

3. Tips for shopping with Tenso

Package consolidation (probably the most important):

It’s generally worth it to wait for all the shipments to all arrive at Tenso before you forward them overseas. Tenso can hold onto your package for 60 days. You can apply for package consolidation after all your packages arrive at Tenso’s warehouse. The package consolidation application fee is 200 yen. The consolidation fee is 300 per package. For example it would cost 500 total to consolidate 2 packages (500 = 200 application fee + 300 consolidation fee*1), 800 to consolidate 3 packages (800 = 200 application fee + 200 consolidation fee*2), etc.

Package consolidation saves money because the initial fixed cost of overseas shipping is high relative to the variable/marginal weight-dependent cost. For example, if I bought a top that weighs 200 grams, it would cost 2300 yen for Tenso to ship it independently to the United States. If I bought a second top that weighs 300 grams, it would cost me 2400 yen for Tenso to ship it independently. So if I shipped these two tops separately to the US, it would cost 4700 yen (2300 + 2400 yen) in total. But if I consolidated the two tops into one package, the total weight would be about 500 grams and the shipping cost of the single combined package would be 2530 yen. Combined with the package consolidation costs (200 + 300 yen), the total for the consolidated package would be 3030 yen (2530 + 500 yen). That’s much cheaper than 4700 yen!

Promotions/discounts:


Tenso often has email promotions and coupons–especially with Rakuten and Amazon Japan. If you can, consider checking out the promotion emails you get from Tenso. For example, there was a recent promotion for 2000 yen off shipping for any single Rakuten purchase over 20000 yen. There are also coupon codes that provide discounts. You might get emails for Buyee promotions as well. Most of these promotion emails may not be interesting/useful, but there are occasionally some great discounts!

IV. Buying used items online

You can buy used Larme/girly fashion items online from the following places/markets/sites:

1. Stores that specifically sell secondhand fashion items

2. Flea market apps/sites
3. Auction sites
4. Sales communities outside of Japan (mainly on Facebook)


1. Secondhand Stores

There are some secondhand goods online stores that carry items from Larme/girly-style brands. Most of these web shops are not very easy to navigate. You will likely need to search for the name of the specific brand that you are interested in. You may have search for the brand's name in Japanese (which can easily be found by Googling the brand).

I have personally bought items that are suitable for Larme/girly fashion from Alice+fururun and Closet Child. Both of these stores mostly sell Lolita fashion items, but they also carry items by Milk, Swankiss, Candy Stripper, mon Lily, Honey Cinnamon, lilLilly, and other Larme/girly-style brands.

Zozotown, which sells mostly new items, also carries "used" items that are organized by brand.

(I have not bought from other secondhand stores so I can't personally recommend them. But if you have bought Larme/girly-style items from other secondhand stores, please let me know! I would like to add them to this section.)

2. Flea market apps/sites

Flea market apps are probably the best choice for buying secondhand Larme/girly-style goods. I find that flea market apps tend to have more Larme/girly-style items, cheaper prices, and more frequent listings than auction sites or secondhand stores.

The only drawback is that flea market sellers tend to be less reliable and more casual than other sellers. For example, they may list the same item on multiple sites and suddenly remove listings if they can complete the sale faster elsewhere. 

If the flea market app doesn't accept foreign cards, you will also have to find a special shopping service. Some shopping services do not provide services for flea market apps because the sellers tend to be unreliable.

If you are not using a shopping service, you will need to correspond with the sellers in Japanese. You don't really need to know Japanese, though. I can personally get away with just using Google Translate and asking my friends to translate if I really need help. You will have to write an evaluation for each seller. I usually write "I have received the package,  thank you!" in Japanese ("荷物が届きました、ありがとうございます!").


Fril and Mercari

You will have to use a shopping service for these flea market apps. (See "December 2016 Update" below.) I have only used Kairai and have had good experiences with them.

Fril is my favorite flea market app. It has a channel specifically for girly style (such as Honey mi Honey, lilLilly, Katie, and Swankiss). It also has most of the girly style brands entered into its system, so you can browse by brand rather than by keywords. For example, here is the Fril brand page for EATME. You can also browse by item category. For example, here is a page specifically for knee length skirts by merry jenny.

DECEMBER 2016 UPDATE:
Fril stopped accepting foreign credit and debit cards some in November 2016. :( I was actually in the middle of a transaction when I found out that my cards were not going through. I tried linking my cards to LINE pay, since you can use LINE pay to pay on Fril as well. The LINE pay method worked after several tries. But the fact that LINE pay seemed to fail more often than not showed that it probably would not be a reliable payment method for Fril. I cannot recommend using LINE pay for Fril. You will need a shopping service for Fril. I recommend 
Kairai.


The transaction flow for Fril is like this (given that you've already made a Fril account and a package forwarding service account):

1. You check if the seller requires you to comment on the listing before sending in a purchase application.
2. If the seller requires a comment, see steps 3 and 4. If not, see step 5.
3. You comment in Japanese that you would like to apply to purchase the item. You can write "I would like to buy this!" ("これが買いたいです!")
4. The seller tells you whether you can buy it or not. (It may be reserved for someone else.) 
5. If you can buy the item, you send in a purchase application. You wait for the seller to approve it.
6. The seller approves the application.
7. You send in the payment and wait for the seller to ship the item.
8. The seller ships the item. You will receive an email notification.
9. Your package arrives at your package forwarding service's warehouse.
10. You write an evaluation for the Fril seller to close the transaction.

Mercari Japan also has a good selection of Larme/girly-style items. It doesn't accept foreign cards, so you will have to use a shopping service. Mercari is also less clothing-focused than Fril. It has some of the girly-style brands in its database, but not as many. It also has item categories. For example, here is the Mercari page for mini dresses by Swankiss. I find that I tend to rely on search terms more on Mercari. Mercari also has a US site, so make sure you're on the right one! (You won't find any Larme-style items on the US site, haha.)


3. Auction sites

Mbok and Yahoo Auctions

MbokYahoo Auctions, and Rakuten Auctions have listings of items from Larme/girly-style brands. 

Both Mbok and Yahoo Auctions have items listed by brand. For example, here is the brand page for MILK on Yahoo Auctions and the brand page for MILK on Mbok.

You can bid/purchase on Yahoo Auctions and Rakuten Auctions with Buyee (see the "Shopping services" section for more about Buyee). You can also choose to use a normal auction shopping service. You need a shopping service to buy on Mbok.

I personally recommend Japonica Market for auction shopping.

(I have not personally bought from Mbok for a while, so please let me know if my information is inaccurate!)


4. Sales communities outside of Japan

Since Larme is relatively new, the magazine and its style are not as popular outside of Japan yet. As of now, there are no sales communities that are dedicated to girly or Larme-style items. 

You can find some listings for Larme/girly-style items in the Larme Kei Worldwide Facebook group. Please note that this group is focused on fashion and not sales.

You may find some Larme/girly-style items in Gyaru fashion sales communities, such as the Gyaru Sales Facebook group. You would have to use search terms to find items that are more suitable for Larme/girly-style.

V. Buying Japanese brands on a budget

I would say that the key to buying Japanese brands on a budget is to (1) regularly check secondhand markets for the items that you want and to (2) take advantage of seasonal and time sales. 

Japanese fashion is infamous for being expensive. But if you are good at looking out for deals, it doesn't have to come out to be more costly than Western fashion—including the overseas shipping! I have personally been able to buy Japanese fashion pieces for, on average, about the same price as the mid-range items sold by Western fast fashion retailers (such as H&M, Forever 21, the low ends of ASOS and Top Shop, etc.).


Taking advantage of secondhand markets

Here are some secondhand bargain shopping tips:

  • Check secondhand markets regularly. I personally have a shopping hobby (in addition to my fashion hobby!) so I check the Fril and Mercari pages for my favorite brands every day. I find great deals for cute pieces every week. I don't always buy them, but over time I get a sense of how easy it is to acquire that particular item.
  • Bookmark the brand pages of of your favorite brands on flea market apps and auction pages to make it easier to check on them. For example, I have the lilLilly brand page on Fril bookmarked.
  • Keep a list of the styles or brands that you are looking for. It is much easier to find good deals if you know what you're looking for in the first place.
  • Keep a list of search terms for the items that you want. For example, I have been on the lookout for knee-length pencil skirts, so I have "ひざ丈タイトスカート" saved to a notes document for easy searching.
  • Be patient. If you are craving items from popular (current or previous) collections, the item may get sold out quickly every time it gets listed. But if you are persistent, you'll eventually run into your dream item—and hopefully at a great price!
Of course, the disadvantage of this type of shopping is that it takes time. Time is money. Time will always be an opportunity cost for browsing-based shopping. This type of shopping works out for me, since I have a shopping hobby and I just browse for secondhand goods when I take breaks. But you may find that it could be more cost-efficient for you to focus on sales or to buy full-priced items.


Taking advantage of seasonal and time sales

The easiest way to be on top of seasonal sales and time sales is to sign up for the email lists of Japanese fashion brands. I am on the mailing lists for all my favorite Larme-style brands, Fashionwalker, and Zozotown.

The best deals can be found during end-of-season sales in December-January and in June-July. Some of the full-priced items that you are interested in may be discounted during the sales. (But that isn't to say you should never buy full-price items. Popular goods might get sold out quickly!) I would save up and prepare myself for the sales.

Time sales are sales that are limited to a particular date and time. They can be a few days long or a few hours long. I set alarms when I get email notifications about upcoming time sales—especially if the duration of the sale is short or if I expect the items I want to be sold out quickly. The discounts can be quite steep and very worth it!



Conclusion

I hope that you found my Larme Kei/Girly Fashion shopping guide useful! I was getting a lot of similar questions about buying Japanese brands, so I tried to summarize the relevant in this post. 

Please let me know if you have questions. I would also love general feedback.

Until next time!

Ruka ♥



7 comments:

  1. Really happy to visit your blog. You shared very useful post. Thanks for sharing.

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  2. Locate the comparative item offered by different retailers at various cost. Inspect the items and its costs and select the one that substance you the most. www.hershersons.com

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  3. Just wanted to say thank you so much for this post. It was so so helpful and I had a hard time finding information on fril and tenso anywhere else. I used it to input my tenso address and bought something before I read that foreign cards are no longer accepted. It seems my order went through though? I'm not sure. Hopefully they changed their policy again!

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    Replies
    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    2. Turns out my card worked for a few days and then I started getting an error message.): I was wrong about them accepting foreign cards again. Now I'm dealing with Line Pay to see if I can get it working even though you said you had a bad experience with it.

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  4. I want to say thank you for this blog post. Here you have mentioned few tips about Fashion shopping that I had never know. Again thanks for this informative article.

    ReplyDelete