How Trader Joe’s tote bags became so fashionable in Japan

How Trader Joe’s tote bags became so fashionable in Japan
via TikTok/@trashxly, @elinorkim
Michelle De Pacina
27 days ago
While Trader Joe’s tote bags in the U.S. have become a viral sensation due to social media, the canvas bags have long been an unexpected status symbol in Japan. 
Key points:
  • The appeal of the grocery chain’s totes lies in their connection to American culture. The bags have been embraced by fashionistas for their association with the “American casual” style or “Amerikajin” fashion, reported BBC.
Catch up:
  • Trader Joe’s mini tote bag became a viral sensation on TikTok, completely selling out within a week after its release earlier this month. The $2.99 canvas bag, described as “totes adorbs” by the retailer, has seen immense demand, fueled by its popularity on social media.
  • Featuring vibrant colors and made of the same sturdy material as their larger canvas bags, the mini totes are viewed as perfect for smaller shopping trips or outings. While some shoppers were lucky to snag one, some others willing to pay hundreds of dollars for the coveted item turned to online resellers. Trader Joe’s has distanced itself from the resale market, emphasizing that it does not endorse the reselling of its products.
The details:
  • Japanese people may have been first to the Trader Joe’s tote bag trend as tourists often buy these bags as souvenirs due to their connection to American culture. It was popularized by paparazzi photos featuring celebrities with the bags and influencers showcasing them on social media. 
  • Anthony Yamada, a teacher living in Fukuoka, Japan, notes the growing trend of Trader Joe’s bags in the country can be attributed to the fascination with American casual fashion culture, which incorporates elements like Ivy League fashion, seen in stores like Uniqlo selling Harvard or Michigan sweaters. 
  • Yamada attributes the trend’s popularity to the influence of American entertainment, facilitated by platforms like Netflix, allowing Japanese audiences access to American TV shows. Carrying a Trader Joe’s tote signifies an affiliation with American culture, suggesting experiences such as studying or living abroad in the U.S.
  • Additionally, the popularity of Trader Joe’s among American college students, due to its affordability and convenience, contributes to its status among fashion enthusiasts seeking to convey American academic vibes. 
  • Despite being an inexpensive grocery store item in the U.S., Trader Joe’s totes sell for around 2,000 Japanese yen ($13) in Japan, highlighting their coveted status in the fashion scene.
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