Tokyo Report | From pool to car park and now convenience store, Hiroshi Fujiwara has explored the banal physical space of ‘street’. His latest retail venture could be a stab at the convenience of throwaway fashion and, likely, culture. But is it persuasive enough for us to open our wallets?
It is tempting to call The Conveni store an excess of cleverness. Its creator, the high priest of Tokyo’s streetwear/design/retail scene, Hiroshi Fujiwara, has put together a shop that’s homage to Japan’s omnipresent konbini (コンビニ), short for convenience store, of which more than 500,000 is reportedly spread across the archipelago. On paper and via media raves, it sounds good, even compelling (although we thought, at first, it sounds more like a play on ‘convent’). But an intentional visit may hit the regret nerve.
A follow-up of the successful and charming pop-up The Park.Ing Ginza, The Conveni feels more like a quick take-up of an available space than a strategic move that results in a enlightened retail post. While The Park.ing Ginza was a much larger space (it did occupy a carpark!) and was truly a spirited jumble of intriguing products, The Conveni is a strikingly smaller enclosure, with variety-lite merchandise that seems to share the same provenance and quality as Wego.
As with The Park.ing Ginza, The Conveni is, similarly, sited in the basement of the old, Yoshinobu Ashihara-designed Sony Building at the Sukiyabashi intersection on Harumi-dori. However, it has a new entrance which is at the rear of the change-is-the-only-constant park space which has taken over the vacated spot, interestingly still linked to the electronics brand: Ginza Sony Park. The Conveni is the only retail store in the small underground shopping centre apart from the Kiosk, a stand that offers books, gift items, and Sony-branded merchandise.
Opened this past August, Mr Fujiwara’s latest venture is unmissable as it is konbini-bright in a concrete enclosure that is less enthusiastically lit. From the outside, you do get a sense of its convenience store inspiration, but, unlike the real deal, The Conveni is not bursting with products, nor does it seem inclined to sell as many, or as wide-rangingly. Visually, it takes the konbini idea too literally (non-working fridges to house T-shirts!), and aches to be cool. We aren’t sure what to make of it: the shop feels to us like one of those print shops in Sunshine Plaza—functional, with service that can be indifferent.
Inside, it is difficult to find The Conveni compelling. Conceptually, it is interesting. But when the merchandise pale in comparison to what is available in an actual convenience store, such as 7-Eleven (known locally as Seven, where you can find decent, basic garments), then The Conveni’s existence is either a lame expression of irony (now not quite au courant) or a spiritless dip into the concert-merch approach to retail. At best, it is a konbini for souvenirs of your trip to Tokyo, or, specifically, Ginza. And even that, you’re probably better off at Lawson.
Mr Fujiwara, instrumental in Harajuku’s fledgling fashion scene in the ’80s, is very much revered in the west for popularising hip-hop music in Tokyo and for creating what would be a much more ‘elevated’ take on streetwear. His Fragment Design is the go-to multi-disciplinary outfit for collabs if you want to crack the Japanese market or let the design world at large sit up and notice you. The Conveni, without the hype that bolsters the success of Supreme, regrettably, will get only die-hard fans falling over themselves to rush to the store.
The Conveni Store is at 〒104-0061 Tokyo, Chuo City, Ginza, 5 Chome−3−1. Photos: Jiro Shiratori