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Business Insight

'Big' Changes for Men's Fashion

Sakura Koyama

Recent surveys by Japan's health ministry show that one-third of men in the country are overweight, and the numbers are increasing. For many of these men, the concern is not just with their weight, but with their appearance. And the fashion industry is starting to take notice.

One department store is making an effort to appeal to larger men. In September, it expanded its offerings. You won't find small- or medium-size clothes here. The sizes range from 2L to 5L.

The store's buyers faced a challenge. Many clothes-makers didn't offer extra-large sizes, so the buyers asked them to expand their ranges. "There's a wide selection for me to choose from," one shopper says. "I enjoy shopping here very much."

Store managers say sales of garments for larger men have increased 20 percent over the past year. "Plus-size customers used to only care about finding clothes that fit them," one buyer says. "But now, more of them want to be fashionable and find trendy items."

One website offers every kind of garment and accessory a larger man could want, with more than 3,000 items. Sales have grown more than three-fold over the past ten years. The company that runs the site has released its own apparel line.

One of their shirts has mesh in the shoulder for better ventilation. Another popular item is a T-shirt that has a different shape than normal tees to accommodate a chubby stomach. The president of the company Yoshihiro Ueda says, "I'm pretty big, and that can cause problems. When I introduced clothes to help solve those problems, customers liked them. So, I realized they felt the same way, and I decided to offer similar products."

In the fashionable Harajuku district of Tokyo, a model takes part in a photo shoot for a magazine that caters to plus-size men. The magazine released its first issue in October. It focuses on clothes, grooming and lifestyle tips.

Some of the fashion is quite playful. And there are accessories to help plus-size men complete their look. Readers have been passionate in their response. The editorial team is busy preparing the next issue.

At the photo shoot, the editor-in-chief steps in to offer a tip. "This is a bit loose. Why don't you pinch it a bit in the back to make the stomach stand out more?" He urges the model not to hide his chubbiness, but to show it off.

"I hope our magazine will help to lead clothes manufacturers and fashion brands to begin to create stylish items for plus-sized men," the editor says. "I think it can also be seen as a great business opportunity." Plus-size Japanese men are finding it easier to buy comfortable and fashionable clothes, and some people in the fashion industry think the trend might be the next big thing.

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