Main Drivers and Trends in the Sector

In a market led by venues, dresses remain the stars. The growing trend of wearing two Western style dresses entails a business opportunity.

Japan is a market that bears great interest for businessmen in every sector, but their culture and rooted tradition make entering their consumption system a hard task. Notwithstanding, the bridal world has many expansion opportunities, given the trend amongst Japanese women of referring to Western nuptial fashion.

Buying Habits

Future Japanese brides are heavily conditioned by the selected venue for their celebration, as the choice of style for the dress will depend on the type of space. In addition, their choice will also be limited by the stores belonging to the hired company, unless they wish to pay a sanction.

Photo of Design by Yumi Katsura
Design by Yumi Katsura

Bearing this in mind, the search for a dress usually starts less than a year in advance. 50% of brides begin the process between 4 and 6 months in advance of their wedding day. According to ICEX, one of the Japanese’s favorite times to get married is spring, a season favored by 28.7% of couples. This is due to both climatology and the cultural connotations conferred by said time of the year (Sakura season in April, Golden Week in May and June Bride in June).

The choice of style for the dress will depend on the type of space and the stores belonging to the hired company, unless they wish to pay a sanction.

Growing Trends

Some of the styles preferred by Japanese brides are A-line and Ball Gown silhouette dresses, although they also begin to have an interest in other patterns like Empire, Mermaid or Sheath. The majority wear two designs on their wedding day: the first is usually white, while they normally favor a colored one more voluminous and in pastel colors for the second. In some cases, stores even request that the brand dye a white dress, as these models better fit the brides’ wishes.

Western firms receive great approval from Japanese brides, although it is necessary to adapt them, since they prefer less pronounced transparencies and necklines than American or European brides.

Photo of Design by Yumi Katsura
Design by Yumi Katsura

As for renowned firms it is important to understand that, although Yumi Katsura is established as, maybe, the best known brand at a national level, international brands have an important weight in the bridal sector. Some of the firms with a larger presence are: Antonio Riva, Carolina Herrera, Peter Langner, Pronovias, Rosa Clará, Marchesa, Oscar de la Renta, Reem Acra, David Fielden, Monique Lhuillier, Angel Sanchez, Yolancris, Jenny Packham, Temperley London, Caroline Castigliano and Elisabetta Polignano. As for brands that are starting to appear in some Japanese stores, we highlight Sophie et Volià, Claire Pettibone, Ersa Atelier, Marco & María, Hayley Paige, Cortana and Tot-Hom.

Some of the styles preferred by Japanese brides are A-line and Ball Gown silhouette dresses, although they also begin to have an interest in patterns like Empire, Mermaid or Sheat.

In Japanese weddings, brides only wear the dress for about two to four hours, depending on whether they choose one or two models. Their ceremonies are shorter and more relaxed than in Western countries -they are seated during the whole event-, reason why they can guarantee the dress being in good condition. Brides pay special attention to this issue as in most cases the dress is rented and they have committed to return it in perfect condition.

The Future of the Kimono

With regards to the kimono, fewer and fewer women decide to wear this traditional outfit which has been the main focus of weddings for centuries, in all of its iterations: iro-uchikake, shiromuku and kurohiki. Usually chosen by brides holding their wedding at a shrine even though they opt for a white dress and western cut for the banquet anyway. Nowadays, it is customary to wear a kimono for a photo shoot before the event. For the occasion, brides will wear the traditional costume and the hairstyle and makeup that marks the tradition.

Photo of a Irouchikake
Irouchikake. Source: kagoshimablog.com
A kimono is usually chosen by brides holding their wedding at a shrine, even though they opt for a white dress and western cut for the banquet anyway.
Shiromuku
Bride wearing a shiromuku in Tokyo

The choice of using a kimono for the ceremony owes itself to maintaining tradition and not religious beliefs. Japan perfectly resolves the religious aspect in regards to the ceremony. Even though we observe a variety of religions in the country -47% of Buddhist citizens versus 47.4% of Shinto ones, according to a study by AACJ in 2016-, it is not a determining factor when planning the wedding, as most Guest Houses that host banquets feature versatile chapels and altars so that members of any religion can organize the event following their beliefs.

Photo of a Kurohiki
Kurohiki. Source: famarri.com

Conclusions

Western firms enjoy very good reception in the Japanese bridal sector. Despite the importance of tradition at weddings, one of the two dresses used in the celebration is usually white and with a western cut.

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