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Kamakura Shirts: Made in Japan, made for the world

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Article - February 1, 2023

A Japanese fashion brand that’s celebrating its 30th anniversary,  Kamakura Shirts is out to continue its steady growth at home and abroad. 

“We want to continue introducing our high-quality products to both the domestic and overseas markets. We want to spread the word about our products to the wider global audience.”

Nanako Sadasue, President, Maker’s Shirt Kamakura Co., Ltd

A Japanese company committed to quality materials and high manufacturing standards, Kamakura Shirt specializes in precisely crafted, stylish shirts that stand the test of time. Founded in the seaside city of Kamakura in 1993, the firm has enjoyed steady growth over the past 30 years – and as it looks ahead to its fourth decade, Kamakura Shirts is out to continue building its brand, both in Japan and abroad.

“You probably know the story of the tortoise and the hare,” says Kamakura Shirts’ president, Nanako Sadasue. “In that regard, our company is more like the tortoise than the hare. We have taken firm, deliberate steps, moving forward in a gradual, focused manner. These are the principles that we have adhered to throughout the history of our company, and we want to carry on in that vein for the years to come.”

Thanks in part to this prudent, purposeful approach, Kamakura Shirts has established itself as a manufacturer that respects and protects the environment. “The essence of our business model is to produce approximately the same number of products as we sell,” Ms. Sadasue explains. “We do not overproduce or exceed the number of products that we need. This prevents us from increasing our environmental burden, as we do not throw away the amount of things that the fast fashion companies do according to reports circulating around the world.

“Another aspect of our business model is its simplicity, as we do not create many different variations of products. We create high-quality products that become very popular, with people preferring to only buy one particular type of shirt, for example. Offering a limited range of products allows us to track our stock better.”

Kamakura Shirts green commitment is further exemplified by its development of a state-of-the-art, anti-wrinkle fabric that is designed to sidestep the reliance on chemicals seen in the production of other easy-care materials. Created with the help of the spinning specialists at the Unitika Tokiwa Factory – and a grant from Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry – Palpa Premium features a unique, two-layer structure, with cotton wound around polyester to generate its wrinkle resistance. “Cotton easy-care fabrics usually need a special chemical resin to be applied to the surface to become wrinkle resistant,” Ms. Sadasue says. “However, Palpa Premium is inherently anti-wrinkle.”

A company that places an emphasis on all-Japanese manufacturing, Kamakura Shirts boasts stores across the country. It has also opened a Chinese branch in Shanghai, and ran a successful New York store until COVID-19 forced its closure. In addition, the firm’s shirts for men and women are sold at partner retail outlets in locations such as Hong Kong, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, France, Sweden and the U.K.

As Kamakura Shirts bids to double its current turnover by the time its 40th anniversary comes around, the company is working to grow its network of in-house stores – an expansion plan that stands to benefit both in-person and internet sales. “We still have not fully covered the Japanese market,” Ms. Sadasue says. “In September this year, we opened our first store in Sapporo, and we intend to launch more domestic shops next year. Our products have to be fitted, which requires our customers to visit our shops. Later, they can visit our online store and buy the same products again.

“Internationally, the American market – which accounts for 80% of all purchases from our global online store – will be important for us going forward. For the time being, reopening our store in New York and potentially opening a second store in Washington, D.C., are my goals. While they may be ambitious objectives, we will steadily take the steps that are required and we will not rush to achieve them.”

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