When you think of Japanese outdoor gear, high quality brands like Montbell, Snow Peak and Goldwin would probably come to mind for most people. What about Karrimor?
We recently stumbled across the surprising news that the long-running British brand has opened up a store in Tokyo. This led us to take a look at Karrimor’s Japanese web store to see what kind of kit they are offering. What we found is a brand starkly different in style to the one we have in the UK.
Karrimor Japan products seem to follow a strictly minimalist aesthetic but with high tech fabrics and design details. There are crew neck pullovers made from wind resistant Pertex fabrics, Gore-tex lined waterproof jackets and ultralight backpacks with high tenacity fabrics. Let’s just say the quality and price points are at the other end of the scale compared to what the UK-based brand offer..
Karrimor’s history goes back to Lancashire during World War II when bicycle shop owner Charles Parsons began to make his own saddlebags and panniers for his shop. In the decades that followed, the company grew to become one of the UK’s most reputable outdoor brands, but in the early 2000s trouble eventually came when the company went into financial difficulty due to falling sales and a shortfall in investment. After a creditor was appointed to oversee its rescue, Sports Direct Group swooped in within 24 hours to purchase the assets.
Famous for offering products at huge discounts – and for holding the world’s longest ever closing down sale – one of Sports Direct’s strategies, as The Guardian reported in 2015, is to harness a brand with longstanding credibility and to subsequently use its logo on garments sourced from low cost manufacturers. These products are then marked with a label that gives a sale price and a REF price, creating the impression that the product was, at one time, more expensive. Dunlop, Slazenger, Everelast – they’re all brands that, like Karrimor, have gone through the same process.
Today, it appears the Karrimor brand remains as a licensable entity for marketing and product branding, which could explain why it’s popped up in Japan, albeit with a drastically different approach to quality.
“Elevated, high-performing, and oozing Japanese style sensibilities”, that’s how fashion magazine High Snobiety described the kit from the new Japanese collection. You only need to take a look at Karrimor Japan’s Instagram (over 30,000 followers) and compare it to Karrimor Officials account (13,000 followers) to see how starkly different the two are.
Want to get your hands on some gear from Karrimor’s better-looking sibling? Well, you can order their stuff online at karrimor.jp – just so long as you’re able to translate the order form and navigate the shipping clauses.