Muted lip colours reflect mood in Japan

Lipsticks at a Shiseido store in Tokyo. As optimism about a recovery in Japan's economy fades, sales are shifting from hot red hues to shades closer to natural Japanese lip colour.
Lipsticks at a Shiseido store in Tokyo. As optimism about a recovery in Japan's economy fades, sales are shifting from hot red hues to shades closer to natural Japanese lip colour.PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO • Lipstick shades are kissing off Japan's short-lived economic recovery, and fashion industry hues are turning sombre as hopes of a recovery fade.

In the first year of "Abenomics", the economic stimulus programme of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, when stocks were booming, exports rising and deflation in retreat, the country's beauty giant Shiseido introduced a sassy new lip gloss that reflected the new confidence.

It had been more than 20 years since a red as bright as Shiseido's Lacquer Rouge 413 had been popular, the company said, recalling the boom era before Japan tumbled into two decades of stagnation and deflation in the early 1990s.

Now that growth has again turned negative, inflation is flatlining and consumer spending has notched up a fifth straight month of declines, the colour is draining from Shiseido's lips.

Sales are shifting to hues like Maquillage Dual Color Rouge 10, which is closer to natural Japanese lip colour, and 800 yen (S$9.80) cheaper than its hot red cousin.

"There were hopes in society that something good would happen when Prime Minister Abe's government started," said Ms Reiko Ohno, spokesman for the Japan Fashion Colour Association.

"That timing matched the momentum when the fashion industry was trying to introduce colourful items." Last year, though, as optimism ebbed, fashion turned to more dowdy beiges, greys and navy blues, she said.

With the Bank of Japan expected to cut growth and price forecasts for next year, sources say, the palette for 2017 could be very dour indeed.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 09, 2016, with the headline 'Muted lip colours reflect mood in Japan'. Print Edition | Subscribe