Is it cheaper to buy Bao Bao and Pleats Please by Issey Miyake in Japan? This ultimate how-to guide for fashion-loving tourists will reveal tips on how to buy Bao Bao bags, Pleats Please, and other Issey Miyake clothing for less while visiting Japan.
Why I love Bao Bao bags and Pleats Please clothing
For years I’ve been mildly obsessed with owning a Bao Bao bag by Japanese designer Issey Miyake. They are instantly recognizable, each made up of a series of flat triangle pieces that change into 3-D shapes as the bag adapts to items placed in the bag. The look is architectural, modern, and chic.
Similarly, I’ve been fascinated with Issey Miyake’s Pleats Please clothing line. Launched in 1993 as a casual offshoot of his main line, Pleats Please clothes feature permanently pressed fabric that never wrinkles and is completely machine washable, making them ideal for travel. The pieces take on sculptural qualities when worn and adapt to each individual wearer’s body so the same piece can look different based on who is wearing it. As I learned more about the line, I grew more enamored.
Although Pleats Please doesn’t seem to be that popular with younger people, I find the look timeless. It’s kinda the Japanese equivalent of Eileen Fisher in its popularity with the more mature crowd (but is way more high-end and fashion-forward IMHO).
That’s why during my more recent trips to Japan I became very interested in learning the best ways to acquiring some Issey Miyake-designed handbags and clothing to bring home from my trip.
Please note: I will refer to Bao Bao as “BB” and Issey Miyake as “IM” through the course of this article.
Is it cheaper to buy Bao Bao bags, Pleats Please, and other Issey Miyake clothing in Japan?
In my own personal experience, yes, it is cheaper to buy Bao Bao bags and Issey Miyake clothing in Japan than it is to buy it here in the United States.
In the US Bao Bao handbags and Issey Miyake clothing are only carried by high-end department stores like Bloomingdales and Bergdorf Goodman, boutiques in select markets, and the Issey Miyake and Pleats Please NYC flagships stores in TriBeCa and SoHo (respectively).
Although some stores like Saks do have sales, they only happen a few times a year and it’s pretty rare to find a good deal on staple items like black pants and dresses. It’s even rarer that they’ll still be stocked in your size once the sale comes around.
For example, the Platinum Mirror Tote costs $1,295 in the US in 2020. You can get the same/similar bag from the Ginza/Omote store for around 90,000 YEN, approximately $793 in 2017 and $822 in 2020. That’s a pretty big difference.
Others have found similar price savings when buying Bao Bao in Japan vs. the US and other countries.
Where to buy Bao Bao and Pleats Please in Tokyo and the rest of Japan
The Issey Miyake website keeps an up-to-date list of all the stores where you can find Issey Miyake items (you can even sort by IM brands like “Bao Bao” or “Pleats Please”) in Japan (and internationally). You will notice that some stores will carry several lines. (E.g. – a Pleats Please store might also carry Bao Bao.)
In Japan, you can find Issey Miyake in high-end department stores but (and this is key), there are many stand-alone Issey Miyake stores in major cities in Japan like Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, etc.
Generally, there is no price difference between what the department stores sell and what is sold in the stand-alone IM stores unless there is a special sale going on – but the only sale I’ve ever seen on IM was in a stand-alone Pleats Please store on Dec 1, 2018, when I think they were discounting prices on previous season items. (I just happen to be there that day – I didn’t even realize there was a sale going on until the cashier told me my item wasn’t eligible for a discount!)
Foreign visitors can get the most savings by buying Bao Bao and Pleats Please directly from Issey Miyake stand-alone stores
In my opinion, one of the best ways for visitors to buy Issey Miyake items (particularly Bao Bao bags) is to acquire them directly from the stand-alone Issey Miyake stores, one item at a time, because of the possible extra savings.
Let me explain:
Consumption tax exemption
If you are traveling from abroad and are making purchases in one day at a store on eligible items (which includes clothing and handbags) that totals between 5,000 – 500,000 YEN (excluding tax), you are exempt from paying the 10% Japanese consumption tax in participating stores.
This means any purchase on clothing/ handbags/ shoes/ etc. over $45 USD is potentially tax-free in Japan. (Read more about the consumption tax exemption process on the official Japan National Tourism Organization site.) Every IM store I have bought from has offered tax exception services.
Let’s take the 90,000 YEN Bao Bao bag example I mentioned earlier. At the current consumption tax rate of 10%, you’d save 9,000 YEN in taxes.
Issey Miyake Member’s Card
If you are buying from an IM store, you can earn additional savings by accumulating points when you have an Issey Miyake Member’s Card (it’s free to join). Just ask to join when you are going to pay for your first item.
Here’s the deal on the Member’s Card program:
- For every purchase made at a standalone Issey Miyake-owned store in Japan, you earn 50 points per 1,000 YEN (excluding tax).
- When the number of points totals 1,000, a discount of 1,000 YEN is granted towards your next purchase.
- These credits can only be used at stand-alone IM stores – you cannot use them at department stores of boutiques that happen to sell IM.
That means if you are going to be in Japan for a number of days, you can stack your visits, buying one piece at a time, and then using the points you earned for each previous purchase to get a discount on the next.
If you use this method, try to plan it so you are buying the most expensive item first, so you are able to earn more points and use them on your less expensive purchases.
I recommend doing it this way because the Member’s Card points expire after one year and the card expires after two years of inactivity.
Following the previous example of the Bao Bao bag, you would earn around 4,000 in Member’s Card credit to use on your next purchase at an IM store.
Apply that to a 34,000 YEN Pleats Please dress (which would probably retail for $645 in the US), you will only pay 30,000 – the equivalent of $269 in 2017 and $274 in 2020.
In conclusion, buying from a stand-alone Issey Miyake store will get you 1. Tax exemption PLUS 2. Member’s Card points to use on a future purchase.
Alternative savings at major department stores
Some department stores do have additional discounts available to foreigners on top of the tax exemption that may yield some worthwhile savings for visitors, but many exclude certain designers or brands.
For example, Takashimaya’s Shoppers Card 5% discount does not apply to Bao Bao but can be applied to Me by Issey Miyake, so you should check the full policy to decide whether it’s better savings to buy certain IM brand items from a department store or directly from an IM store.
How hard is it to get Bao Bao bags and Pleats Please items in Japan?
Perhaps if you are looking for a particularly limited bag that will be released that day, you may want to queue up, however, if you are just looking to find a Bao Bao bag that catches your eye while you are in Japan, you need not worry about getting there by a certain time.
I will say that the bag availability can differ greatly from store to store, and not all stores carry the same bags – in fact, it’s quite common to see a very different selection of styles, finishes, and colors even between Bao Bao stores in Japan.
I feel the same is true of Pleats Please. In general, I’ve found a wider selection of styles, colors, and sizes in the stand-alone Pleats Please stores compared to the department stores, which makes sense since the stand-alone stores are dedicated solely to the Pleats Please line.
I feel that both Bao Bao and Pleats Please are less expensive to buy in Japan than it is in the United States. As long as your purchases are over 5000 YEN, you will not need to pay the 10% consumption tax, and if you buy directly from a stand-alone Issey Miyake store, you can earn points that can be used to discount future purchases.
I hope you found this helpful. If you have any other tips on how to buy Bao Bao and Pleats Please by Issey Miyake in Japan, please let me know in the comments!