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Stylem focuses on high-quality, long-lasting clothing, offering the antithesis of fast fashion

Interview - December 18, 2023

With a rich history spanning 160 years, the Japanese domestic giant focuses on the textile business, placing greater emphasis on major markets like China, the EU and the United States.

RYUTA TAKI, PRESIDENT & CEO OF STYLEM TAKISADA-OSAKA CO., LTD.
RYUTA TAKI | PRESIDENT & CEO OF STYLEM TAKISADA-OSAKA CO., LTD.

Can you give us an introduction to your company?

STYLEM TAKISADA-OSAKA CO., LTD., a textile trading company established in 1864, continues to support the fashion business across four business divisions: textiles, raw materials, apparel garments, and lifestyle. The company is expanding its business globally with a focus on the textile business, which has established the top share in the domestic market. In recent years, the company has made a strong commitment to sustainability and has taken on the challenge of developing new products and services.

 

Now is a pivotal time for the Japanese industry. The past three years have seen severe supply chain disruptions due to COVID-19 as well as the US-China decoupling situation. As a result, many corporate groups are looking to diversify their suppliers to ensure reliability. Known for their reliability, advanced technology and high-quality services, Japanese firms are in an interesting position. Due to a weak Japanese yen, many observers argue that this is a unique opportunity. Do you agree with this sentiment? What are the advantages of Japanese firms and suppliers in this current macro environment?

We tend to be quite Japan-centric when looking at the geopolitical situation or geographical factors. Your question, which explores Japan's role in international supply chain diversification amidst the decoupling of the US and Western countries from China, has helped me to gain a new perspective on Japan in the global context.

I agree with that sentiment, and as a company in the fashion industry, we would like to separate the fashion industry from Japan's situation in general. In the past, semiconductors were a key sector in Japan's manufacturing landscape, but their global presence has waned recently. However, from a geopolitical standpoint, Japan's position in the semiconductor industry has improved due to the weakening yen. This trend seems to extend to many other industries as well, suggesting a positive trajectory for Japanese manufacturing and global product distribution.

Having our production in Japan for the textiles and products we sell domestically and globally is still the key to our business. Interestingly, 70% of our textiles are sourced from Japan. Given the growing cost-effectiveness in Japan, the current trend is quite positive for us. Nonetheless, the weak yen itself does not necessarily compel consumers to choose Japanese products.

Our clients predominantly seek made-in-Japan textiles due to their exceptional quality, something that cannot easily be replicated elsewhere. This is the true strength and impact of Japanese textiles in the global market. While the weak yen benefits our business, it is not the sole determining factor behind consumers' choice to purchase Japanese products.

 

You develop textile brands for customers specifically for European and American markets, such as ZEN Kiwami, which is a made-in-Japan collection that takes advantage of the characteristics of each production region around the country. Why did you decide to develop brands specifically for the overseas market rather than exporting your Japanese brands themselves, and what is your strategy to ensure the growth and success of these international brands?

In overseas markets, textile brands play a crucial role in conveying the concept of collections. To facilitate our entry and growth in the global market, we made the strategic decision to develop brands for our textiles.

In the domestic market, we have already established a strong position, with Takisada serving as our corporate brand for many years. In 2001, our company split into two entities, Takisada Osaka and Takisada Nagoya. We are part of Takisada Osaka.

To avoid customer confusion between the two Takisada brands, especially among non-Japanese consumers, we introduced a new corporate brand called Stylem in 2013. This new brand was used for our global market operations, including product brands like Zen and Zen Kiwami for textiles. Through these efforts, we successfully expanded in the global market. It is worth noting that, in contrast to our global corporate brand, Takisada boasts a rich history spanning 160 years in Japan.

 

There is a global trend of pulling away from fast fashion, especially considering its environmental impact. We are seeing a huge push in the West for Japanese denim, which is mostly handmade and made on analog, non-digitally based looms. As a trader, are you seeing the shift away from fast fashion to more handmade and traditional-style clothing? If so, are you able to cater to that new demand, and how do you do that?

I completely agree that we have witnessed some extreme trends in fast fashion recently, and these trends are encountering resistance. Over the past few years, there has been a notable shift towards sustainability, particularly in Western countries. We believe that our mission is to deliver high-quality clothing that stands the test of time, rather than promoting cheaper, disposable options. Furthermore, we are noticing a growing segment of consumers who highly value high-quality, long-lasting products. I view this trend with optimism and anticipate that it will gain momentum not only in Western markets but also in Japan. 



What kind of applications are you using to work with your customers in terms of design and product design? Could you tell us a little bit more about the design type of technology you are using for digital-based development?

In our role as a textile supplier for the apparel industry, we have taken a proactive step by establishing our web store, named the Stylem Fabric Store. Through this platform, we offer designers in the apparel industry a convenient way to browse and select materials that align with their creative vision. Designers can use the platform to source textiles for prototyping or place bulk orders for their companies.

With the ever-growing influence of e-commerce, we have recognized a new generation of digitally savvy individuals entering the apparel industry, who are actively involved in design and planning. This realization prompted us to invest in our online and digital platforms, creating an environment where our clients can easily find products that meet their specific requirements.

On the Stylem Fabric Store website, clients have the flexibility to purchase real textiles starting from a minimum of one meter in length. Additionally, we provide them with 3D data.

We maintain an extensive inventory of over 5,000 products and 100,000 SKUs of fabrics. Once customers search for their desired textile and place an order, they receive both the physical textile and 3D data in a format compatible with Browzwear and CLO, facilitating their design and production workflows.

 

Your company has been collaborating with Sony to develop and propose clothing materials. Triporous™:Space QOL Series innerwear was selected to be installed on the International Space Station, expected around 2024. What makes this material suitable for the ISS? Why did you use this material at the Space Station?

Triporous™ is a porous carbon material developed by Sony Group Corporation that is made from rice husks, of which more than 100 million tons are generated every year worldwide. Thanks to its unique patented microstructure, Triporous offers potential applications in a wide range of fields, such as water and air purification. Wear made with Triporous has excellent high deodorant and antibacterial effects, quickly eliminating unpleasant odors and keeping the wearer clean and able to wear it repeatedly even in environments where laundering is not possible. In addition, by adopting the composition and design of the fabric that absorbs perspiration sticking to the skin under weightlessness and dries quickly, it keeps the wearer more comfortable.

 

Moving forward, are there any countries or regions you have identified as key for the corporate growth of your firm? What are some of the international strategies you're looking to employ?   

Although we have already made significant expansions into the global market, we intend to continue this endeavor. Our direction is to stay focused on fashion capitals such as Paris, Milan or New York as the basis of our planning and marketing strategies for our sales. The textile industry requires manufacturing capabilities. Moreover, we want to concentrate on potential areas for our production sites that cater to high-end apparel brands or clients. Maintaining an extensive global network is essential to our strategy, which is why we are prioritizing regions such as ASEAN countries, China and India for our production sites, where we already have established operations. 

In terms of sales channels, we are placing greater emphasis on major markets like China, the EU and the United States. Simultaneously, we are exploring opportunities in emerging countries like India and Southeast Asia. Our objective is to strengthen our presence in these regions.

 

If we were to redo this interview all over again, but on the last day of your presidency, do you have a personal goal or a personal ambition as president that you would like to have accomplished by that date?

My primary objective is to ensure that everyone in the fashion industry not only knows who Stylem is but also understands our mission and contributions. I am dedicated to achieving global recognition for our company. The fast fashion industry generates a considerable amount of waste, and there is still substantial room for improvement in reducing the environmental impact of the production process. My vision is for the next generation to carry forward this business in a more sustainable and environmentally responsible manner. On the last day of my presidency, I would like to see the next generation of leaders driving this company toward becoming a sustainable fashion business.

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