Sweet Magazine Introduction
Since I’ve decided to talk about Japanese women’s popular fashion it’d be crazy of me to ignore Sweet magazine. By a landslide Sweet magazine is the best selling women’s magazine in Japan. Sweet (スウィート website) magazine started in 1999 is published by Takara Jimasha (株式会社宝島社). It costs 760 yen currently and comes with a present each issue. The magazine has ruled female tastes since 2010 and shows no signs of stopping.
Sweet magazine’s motto is “28 歳、一生”女の子”宣言” 28 is still a girl! Or often “一生女の子宣言” meaning I’m a girl for my whole life. It was founded on an Otona Kawaii base and still reigns as the queen of Otona Kawaii.
Otona Kawaii simply means adult cute and is a style format of casual girly looks that aren’t too youthful nor are they too sexy or conservative. The motekei / Otona Kawaii overlap is pretty strong. However Otona Kawaii mentality comes from “self” wanting to look cute for yourself, not to please another. Full description coming up in Japanese fashion terms part 2.
Sweet magazine represents what is most popular in mainstream Japanese women’s fashion. It’s targeted towards 25-30 range, but in reality it has a huge readership from 18 years to late 30s.
Sweet Magazine Chief models:
The chief models for Sweet magazine are well known beyond just the magazine. They appear on tv commercials, variety shows, dramas and product placements.
Rola – ローラ – 24 year old – former Vivi model, style maven, and big seller (English article on her)
Saeko – 紗栄子 – 27 year old – model and talent, previously married to Yu Darvish
Hinano Yoshikawa – 吉川ひなの – 34 year old – longtime model
and recently graduated Rinka – 梨花 – 41 year old – model / icon
Their supporting cast of models features mostly women in their late 20s (Alice, Kana Ooya) and early 30s (Coco Kinoshita).
The real motto of the magazine should be “Treat Yo Self!” because it claims to be for women in their 20s and 30s who aren’t afraid to spend a little. Since women are getting married later and later in Japan its led to an independence of women post college and before marriage that are living for themselves. This is the magazine capitalizing on this popular group of women. The magazine almost completely ignores the working side of 25 year old life and onwards as if Sweet provides the distraction of work wear and life.
Post Gal magazine group
Sweet has also been labeled with a group of magazines as Post Gal (ポストギャル). The others being Vivi, Glamorous, Gossips and Glitter. The readers of these magazines enjoy copying the styles inside the magazines and don’t mind following trends. Their goal is to dress Otona Kawaii and stylish. Their friends dress similarly. Their focus in more on girlfriends, not boys (not motekei). The magazines often feature half models (half Japanese half another race), such as Rola (Sweet) and Fujii Lena (Vivi) and the readers are dedicated fans of these exclusive models. They’re also interested in celebrities overseas and their style. Magazines such as Sweet and Vivi also bring in young girls as readers.
Sweet using overseas celebrities showing off the crossbody mini-bag trend
Sweet Magazine contents and High-Medium Mix
Sweet and Vivi magazines have similar layouts and brands shared. Sweet focuses on a bit more girly and more mid-brand overseas brands.
Sweet like Vivi magazine often starts out with a fashion story spread featuring former gyaru icon 36 year old Jpop singer Namie Amuro. While Vivi features other former gyaru icon 35 year old Jpop singer Ayumi Hamasaki. Namie Amuro is often seen gracing covers and spreads inside Sweet.
Sweet’s fashion focus can be titled a High-Mid Otona Kawaii style
Sweet’s tribute to the season’s collection of high brand accessories by Gucci, Chanel, Prada, Miu Miu and YSL usually in each issue. High brand shoes and bags often take the first few pages of the magazine.
The magazine also focuses on overseas brands that are mid-range priced. Marc by Marc Jacobs, See by Chloe, 3.1 by Phillip Lim, Jill by Jill Stuart
These are then mixed with popular mid-range 20s-30s Japanese brands like Snidel, GVGV, Mercury Duo, and Rose Bud.
This mix isn’t really traditional high-low with a Chanel tossed over a Forever 21 top, instead it’s living your life on a 20-30 year old budget of nicer things. #treatyoself
Sweet occasionally does budget sections, but they’re not the main focus of the magazine.
Sweet magazine uses two ways to trendcast for upcoming seasons.
The traditional Japanese magazine way of showing it on a model.
Sweet’s forecast of this year’s fall trends: check aka plaid and gingham
The overseas style of showing runway collections like they did for their Spring trendcast.
Sweet also is traditonally Japanese in the way it does street snaps. It dokusha models (reader models) for their street snap of floral print.
Sweet Make-up and Hairstyles
Sweet make-up for an office style that is still “Otona Kawaii”
Just like Sweet magazine’s High-medium approach to clothing the same price range for make-up. They also use a mix of overseas and Japanese brands for make-up.
Overseas brands such as MAC, Chanel, Dior
But also Japanese brands like Les Merveilleuses de Ladurée, Visala, and Majolica Majorca.
Compared to gyaru magazines their hair and make-up tips are quite simple and they focus more on quality of product and small steps.
Eyelashes are occasional, but eyelash extensions are also very common for readers.
Sweet Theme and Layout
A collection of Sweet magazine covers from a recent event.
Sweet isn’t Akamojikei or Motekei
Sweet has gone against the Akamoji-kei magazine trend that was extremely popular especially around 2007. Unlike the Motekei boom that made CanCam and others rise to fame in the 2005-2008, Sweet isn’t about that.
CanCam has often been thought of as a magazine to read in your college years as you make the ascent into womanhood and catching your husband. How to look attractive doing so. What’s the best way to be conservative and just pretty enough. That concept feels more and more outdated which is one of the reasons Akamojikei readership dropped (along with the abandonment of popular models).
Sweet instead has subtly captured the market instead in two ways: I think Sweet has captured the problematic thoughts of many 25-40 year olds. What is adulthood? How can I still enjoy myself? When does cuteness stop? The magazine has also tapped into the joy of being 25-40. Buying what you want, taking vacations, getting your own place, answering only to yourself. Compared to Akamojikei, Postgal magazines are outright feminist.
Sweet’s layout focuses on clean
Sweet focuses rarely on a background if it ever has any. Instead the layout is a lot of white and crisp photos of the clothing. If there’s a background, the clothing makes a large appearance. The pages are mostly white and English often used as a decoration as much as a font.
Sweet’s own reasons for being number 1
Sweet’s readership has steadily grown in the 2000s. In 2008 it was 11th best selling and moved to the best selling in 2010.
Sweet’s unbelieveable rocket ascent to the top
Sweet publishers thinks this success is for several reasons.
1. They had a popular bus tour that went from bookstore to bookstore to get people and booksellers hyped about the magazine. Which made many booksellers place “Sweet” in front of others”. Publishers in Japan have a 12cm rule which means magazines stacked up around each other you will only see 12cm and above so you should concentrate on that (see picture below). Instead Sweet’s publisher wanted to move the whole magazine to the front of the buyer’s view and focus on making sure that happened in bookstores across Japan.
2. They lowered the cost of the magazine and replaced the revenue with more ads and product tie-ins inside.
3. They include special freebies inside each edition. One notable one was a face roller supposedly retailing at 2,900 yen, far above the 700 yen price of the magazine. They had to do two reprints of that issue. The YSL pouch sold 1,000,000 issues and the kitson bag sold 1,500,000 issues.
Inside a Kobe bookstore. Japanese publishers of magazines not in front only have 12cm to sell you on their magazine.
Sweet has stayed number one magazine for 2 years and while that title can easily fall, its sister magazine for older women “In Red” is the second best selling magazine right now so the style is showing no signs of slowing down. However with the recent departure of superstar Rinka, it’ll be interesting to see how Rola, Saeko and Hinano hold down the fort.
On a side note: I’ve decided to lump these all together in the gyaru university tag. And expand it further just to a Japanese fashion university. Need more Japanese fashion learning? Head onto the Japanese Fashion University tag.