The North Face Purple Label at Nanamica

It seems that it is easier to find cool American stuff in Japan than in the U.S. Nanamica – one of my favorite stores in Tokyo – only seemed to reinforce that belief. The company holds the Japanese license for Filson, Champion, The North Face and other American brands. Nanamica also designs and produces the Japan-only The North Face Purple Label collection. You can’t physically pick up the any of the Purple Label goods in a store without 1. falling in love and 2. having the salesperson point out that the range is only for the Japanese market. I always wanted to politely respond to the sales associates that I could tell that collection was specifically designed for Japan because it wasn’t fucking ugly like in America.

I picked up this trench by The North Face. Perfect for the rainy chilly weather in New York.

The North Face, like many other U.S. brands (not Filson though, kudos to them), have been fully bastardized in the states. Champion is another good example – the brand has so much potential – as exhibited by the collection sold in Japan. Other Champion items not offered for sale online are even better. My question is, how long is it going to take for these U.S. companies to figure out that Americans want more than just the garbage they are selling to Wal-Mart?

Comments on “The North Face Purple Label at Nanamica

    Tom Paine on October 29, 2008 1:12 PM:

    Thanks for the photos.

    Sadly, I have to agree with you that many US sports clothes companies sell us crap – too many logos, hideous colors, and poor fabrics.

    But there are some bright spots: Red Wing is offering once European only collections here in the states and Levis has their Engineered Garments collection at their US web site.

    Michael Williams on October 29, 2008 1:13 PM:

    The Red Wings available in Japan blow the U.S. offerings out of the water. Fo’ real.


    Thom on October 29, 2008 1:25 PM:

    American companies hate their consumers. Actually, I think all companies hate North America. When I was in Hong Kong in 2002 I couldn’t believe the Nikes I saw.

    This would make more sense if the companies weren’t from America.

    Ian on October 29, 2008 1:40 PM:

    The taste level of the average American consumer is pretty much shit. Demand for crap results in supply of crap.

    Oh well. That’s a sharp looking Mac. Good find.

    Joel K. on October 29, 2008 2:19 PM:

    Even companies that have excellent goods in the US, like Bemidji Woolen Mills or Fidelity Sportswear, have cooler looking goods in Japan. I’ve called companies before asking about goods I’ve seen on Rakuten and they usually say ‘sorry, those are for overseas’. I hate having to continually “buy back” items made in the US from stores overseas.

    Tom Paine on October 29, 2008 2:25 PM:

    I hope you don’t mind these questions:
    Are the Red Wings available in Japan manufactured there or in the US? Have you seen the Red Wings J Crew is offering? If so, how do they compare to the ones available in Japan?

    Michael Williams on October 29, 2008 2:27 PM:

    I don’t mind the questions. All of the Red Wings I saw in Japan were made in the U.S. I’m not super familiar with the J. Crew versions, but the ones in Japan were the best I have seen. I bought a pair too. I’ll try to post them tomorrow. super awesome.

    Viv on October 29, 2008 2:38 PM:

    Hi, Michael, lovin’ the site!

    I too have a question… I’m a size six (5’8) in US women’s, and I know everyone in Japan is way smaller than I am. I love men’s jackets and pretty much all things Japanese. I’ve seen pictures of you on the Sartorialist, and you don’t seem all that big. You think I could pull of a men’s medium… or small?

    Let me know if you have any ideas. It’d be really helpful to hear what sizes you’d normally wear in America, if only just S/M/L. Thanks!

    Oh, and I ask because… I have a friend studying abroad in Tokyo who is willing to be a semester-long proxy. =)


    Sean on October 29, 2008 2:40 PM:

    Man…I would kill for one of those shawl collar Champion sweatshirts. Unreal!

    Erick O. on October 29, 2008 2:58 PM:

    I love the backpacks this label carries. Anyway to have them delivered here?

    Michael Williams on October 29, 2008 3:01 PM:


    I’m actually 6’10 and 300 lbs. Surprised you didn’t know that. Kidding. I think a Japan men’s med would work for you.


    Yes, by ship or plane or donkey.


    Clell Tickle on October 29, 2008 4:39 PM:

    Please post the Red Wings you bought in Japan, I’d love to see them. I’m in the market for a new pair.

    Erick O. on October 29, 2008 9:52 PM:


    I love these backpacks featured today on I wonder if anyone could tell me how to place an order and how much it would cost. Thanks

    Sean on October 29, 2008 10:05 PM:

    Good call on Red wing Japan – some really good looking stuff. The Beckman boots are super nice. Looking forward to seeing what you picked up!

    Ryan on October 30, 2008 12:31 AM:


    The Jcrew ones are esentially the old Irish Setters, very similar to the style #877, just a 10 eyelet version. The Jcrew ones are buffed and distressed, and maybe a bit darker color. Very nice, but I like to wear mine in.

    wayne pate on October 30, 2008 8:48 AM:

    It’s very frustrating to go to Japan and see all these old styles and classics from American companies being reissued for the Japanese market. Basically they are all licensing deals that these stores or lines in Japan have with Red Wing, North Face and so on. For instance Beams + always has a new Alden style they will carry for the season that is a older style number or even styles not sold these days in the States. The difference is that there is a good amount of customers and shop owners who want and demand this stuff, where the US market for the most part is clueless and lack’s the knowledge of American heritage. It takes someone big like J. Crew to inform the majority about American classics like the Red Wing workboot.

    Rob on October 30, 2008 10:15 AM:

    while i agree that the US market is full of designs that leave much to be desired, i can’t help think that the homogenous makeup of japan allows designers over there to drill down to a very specific customer in ways that are impossible in america, ie sizing, color palettes, fabrication etc.

    whats fashionable on the east coast isn’t necessarily fashionable in the south, midwest or the west. manufacturers here have to appeal to a somewhat broader audience if they hope to be able to sell a product through so many unique mini-markets in the US.

    wayne pate on October 30, 2008 10:42 AM:

    I couldn’t agree with you more Rob. In regards to the American companies in question: Red Wing,
    Russell Moccasin, Filson, North Face, etc. I can’t expect them to cater to a small percentage of us Stateside. That wouldn’t be smart business now would it. What would be ideal is for more licensing
    of classic styles from stores Stateside.

    Bob T. on October 30, 2008 1:34 PM:
    Lesli Larson on October 30, 2008 2:38 PM:

    Have you seen any Filson collections akin to the purple North Face collection?? In other words, any unique designs specific to the Japanese market. For me, I would just like to be able to purchase stock Filson items sized to fit petite Japanese women (even the US women’s collection in XS swamps me).

    Michael Williams on October 30, 2008 2:44 PM:

    I saw men’s Japan-only Filson. An awesome parka coat, etc. Not sure about women’s but I think they would offer that as well.

    r on October 30, 2008 9:14 PM:

    May have to surrender to the j crew- Red Wing Irish settler-re-issue….i like that it’s unlined, and a pretty faithful remake inc the old label etc. Re: Ryan- There is a normal version in addition to the ‘distressed’ model, that we can all distress as we please.

    *enjoying the Japanese loot.

    Jeremy on October 30, 2008 9:28 PM:

    Check Urban Outfitters for some of the Redwing stuff like the classic moc toe boot in suede or oily brown leather and the traveler boot…..

    Ian on November 1, 2008 4:16 AM:


    I dunno…the Japanese have a wide range of styles. I wouldn’t call them homogeneous, ever.

    wayne pate on November 1, 2008 11:02 AM:

    I tried on the Red Wing for J Crew the other day and
    I couldn’t get it off quick enough. I guess I’m just used to the 875 model. The J Crew version had a lot
    of rocking in the sole when I walked. Looked good overall except for the color of the sole, it seemed darker than the classic white sole.

    Jb on November 2, 2008 9:09 PM:

    The J.Crew Red Wings are nice…I am comtemplating the going with a pair of 844’s.

    I haven’t seen any The North Face Purple Label apparel…though the Lizard accessory collection is very slick!

    Heavy Tweed Jacket on November 3, 2008 1:37 AM:

    Great post! I live in Tokyo but have enjoyed this series on Japan very much. I do think that there is regional difference in Japan as well, much like the States. There is a different palette and look in Kansai which is distinct from Tokyo/Kanto. And when one gets out into the rural areas, well, it tends to look like 20 years ago. Really. Tokyo can be deceptively hip, urbane and lux. That said, there are plenty of people who buy these things. Japanese consumers tend to be better educated than US consumers (read: they heavily research their purchases and expect excellence. Period.). They want US items manufactured in the US; British items produced in G.B.; French by the French and so on. And, they are willing to pay for it – unlike many US consumers. The Wal-mart idea of discounting has not done well here.

    Chris on November 12, 2008 9:43 PM:

    Hey Michael,

    I doubt very much that I would have ventured off the itinerary you kept while in Japan. Must have been a real treat.

    Anyways, speaking about our long-lost American vintage that has now found a new home in Japan. From 2002 – 2005 the Billykirk design studio was near little Tokyo in DT Los Angeles and around the corner from us was Freaks Vintage owned by this Japanese guy named Tomo. Tomo was as sharp as a tack and was as knowledgeable on American vintage as anyone. He relished in scoring top notch East West Music Company leather jackets, rare Levis and NOS items. He had it down to a science. He had people planted all over the South and South West that would hunt for American vintage and ship it back to him. Texas, Oklahoma, and Nebraska were always quite bountiful. Once he had amassed a good cache it would be blocked up, plastic wrapped and put on a boat. C’est la vie!

    Adam on March 10, 2009 10:53 AM:

    Love the coat. Is it really 25,000 yen like it is listed for on the website? $10,000 U.S. is quite steep.

    Adam on March 10, 2009 8:10 PM:

    $500…that’s more like it. Obviously, I don’t deal much in yen, or math for that matter. Fantastic coat…thanks for the tip.

    arthur on May 4, 2009 11:35 AM:

    Just like you, I wish more American companies continued producing high quality goods but I don’t think that’s enough cause to say something like,

    “…how long is it going to take for these U.S. companies to figure out that Americans want more than just the garbage they are selling to Wal-Mart?”

    The companies will figure out that Americans want more than garbage when we finally stop buying garbage. The companies don’t care at all about clothes; they’re a business and thus it’s in their best interest to sell what people want. Obviously the people have shown that they value cost over quality so the companies have supplied us with inexpensive clothes. Blame our society and culture, not the businesses.

    koffie on May 21, 2009 12:33 PM:

    also is north america not attractive to sell.
    prices are much lower in america, so the garments (mostly produced in asia) see lower shipping costs to other asian countries, and therefore more profit,
    or higher prices in europe, therefore more profit.

    i am not american, and i think it might be wrong to say this, but americans expect too much.
    in economics, i have learnt that american government alsways has a shortage (more expenses than income) but still do americans get everything.
    i heard once, right at the start of the crisis, that the asian/middle-eastern countries wanted the oil-prices changed to euros, which didnt happen after all.
    i think world economy is too much america-centered, and the producers take lower profits for what they are.
    only recently i can see the trend of companies who dislike america, and the first company which i heard of was nintendo. their wii was really hard to get, all over the world, but as shortages in europe and asia started to decline, i read on the internet that in america the wii was still very hard to get;
    the low dollar currency made that nintendo would much rather get paid 250euros instead of 250dollars.
    we europeans always have to see that in america, the prices are much lower, but still prices wont rise in america, because the americans will complain, and not see how much everyone else in the world used to pay more than they had to.

    Michael Williams on May 21, 2009 12:48 PM:


    You are missing the point. This isn’t about profit, this about American companies selling well designed products to Americans.

    As much as people outside the U.S. complain about Americans being typically rude and self centered (not to mention fat), your argument is so typical from a European. Complaining about America so more people in the world would pay attention to you.

    In regards to Wii sales, your point doesn’t hold water. There is more demand in the U.S., thus more shortages. Nintendo sold 10.6 million Wii units in The Americas in 2008, compared with 7.9 million units everywhere else except Japan. So, I don’t think Nintendo is going to shun its biggest market. Don’t believe me, look at the company’s annual report. It’s all in there, clear as day.

    To quote Willy Wonka. “Good day sir!”


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