Samantha Thavasa *pic*

  1. I've never even heard of these bags but they look nice. Sounds like they are very popular in Japan.

    Bag Maker Wants to Be Party Crasher
    Japan's Samantha Thavasa Lines Up a Fashion A-List To Promote U.S. Expansion

    TOKYO -- Japanese accessory company Samantha Thavasa has become a big-selling brand in its home market in recent years by convincing Japanese consumers that it was a Western designer brand. To do so, the firm enlisted a raft of celebrities, from pop diva Beyoncé Knowles, Paris and Nicky Hilton and former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham to promote its handbags and jewelry.

    Now, as the company embarks on a big expansion in the U.S., including opening its first American store, on Madison Avenue in New York this past Saturday, it confronts a marketing challenge. It's one thing to pretend to be Western in Japan. It's another to try the same trick in the West, where its brand isn't widely known and is competing with established fashion houses.

    Japanese accessory company Samantha Thavasa, which on Saturday opened its first U.S. store (top), is banking on socialite and gossip-column mainstay Tinsley Mortimer (bottom, with a self-designed handbag) to sell Americans on its products.[​IMG]

    Even so, Samantha Thavasa's president and founder, Kazumasa Terada, intends to try. But unlike in Japan, where the company has used traditional ads, the firm has embarked on an aggressive public-relations push relying heavily on Manhattan party girl Tinsley Mortimer. Samantha Thavasa is making sure Ms. Mortimer, a New York socialite whose blond ringlets and girlish fashions help get her frequent mentions on gossip pages, and other celebrity marketers are photographed -- in everything from celebrity gossip rags to fashion magazines and blogs that track socialites -- while they're out and about with the brand's products.

    Ms. Mortimer has even designed her own line of Samantha Thavasa handbags. At Saturday's store opening, Tinsley look-alike models walked around the store carrying her bags. The store itself was scattered with huge photographs of Ms. Mortimer posing with Samantha Thavasa bags.

    "Tinsley's involvement adds a lot of additional promotional power to the brand," says Tobias Buschmann, a spokesman for Samantha Thavasa in New York. "She is one of the most closely watched style-makers on the East Coast," he says.

    Also involved are the Hilton sisters, who appeared on a recent episode of "Entertainment Tonight" with the bags. The company is in negotiations with other Manhattan girls-about-town for endorsements, says Mr. Terada, who adds: "We have no specific desire to emphasize that this is a Japanese brand."

    But some marketers say the very strategy that made the brand a hit in Japan may have its limitations in the U.S. The accessory and handbag industry in the U.S. is the most competitive in the world. Consumers can choose from a slew of established European and American brands, including Coach, Kate Spade, Gucci, Hermès and Chanel, with their own celebrity marketers. "No product or service can be launched just on the basis of a celebrity," says Greg Furman, chairman of the Luxury Marketing Council in New York.

    There are also differences in the way Japanese and American consumers respond to celebrity campaigns, says Robert Burke, head of Robert Burke Associates, a luxury consulting firm in New York. While Japanese consumers are quick to accept logo-driven brands backed by big Western stars, consumers in the U.S. are much more skeptical, especially of a new brand, Mr. Burke says.

    In Japan, Samantha Thavasa is popular with Japanese women in their early 20s -- who like its faux leopard totes, embossed suede bags, feathery clutches and glittery wallets. But in the U.S., the company says it would like to appeal to a slightly older customer, women in their late 20s and early 30s. To do this, it's pushing its higher-end handbag line and special items such as a dog-carrying case, which the company predicts will be popular with New Yorkers but doesn't sell too well in Japan. The company also chose luxury-laden Madison Avenue for its first store rather than a hipper shopping area downtown. Next year the company plans to open a store in Los Angeles.