The secondhand market is a fickle, fickle friend.
Like any free economic market, it has it’s rises and falls, dragging the rest of us down with it. At times it feels like I’m searching through a jungle, but the floor is actually an ocean. Between trying to determine keywords in a language I don’t fluently speak, understanding cultural terms, and shifting market demands there is only one piece of advice I can give:
Be observant, be critical, and above all, be willing to learn.
Over the past few years I’ve built my himekaji and Lolita almost entirely off the second hand JP market, and I’ve been successful because I’m constantly learning and improving my skills. Using shopping services, and shopping second hand is like anything else, it is very much a skill that takes time, patience, and dedication to learn.
The JP (Japanese) market offers multiple advantages over the US/EUR one. First and foremost is the selection. The chances of you finding a sought after print in the US market and substantially smaller than being able to find it in the JP market.
Well, let’s think this one through.
You can make the argument that online stock between LL’s (Liz Lisa) national and international are the same, and based on my research, I think you’d be correct. (Note that items typically sell out in the JP store first, and THEN the international site follows suit. This proves they’re not transferring the inventory between the two) However, there is one large piece of the puzzle you’d be ignoring and that would be there in store shop stock. Now, we don’t know what that looks like, but because LL is stocking at least four (Shibuya 109, Shinjuku, Osaka, Aichi, taken from IG) different stores, that is a substantial amount of stock available to JP women than US women.
That is not considering the amount of online stock vs in person, as in person might have more stock which would inflate the numbers even more.
It’s sufficient to say that there are simply more available garments floating around in the US than in Japan.
That isn’t even considering that Liz Lisa didn’t always have an international store. Back before the dear Emi, there wasn’t a place to buy Liz Lisa, you would’ve had to have gone through an SS (Shopping Service). So some pieces are incredibly hard to find as they just weren’t available to international customers at the time.
All of this adds up to make LL pieces in the US few and far between.
Even now, the second hand sites aren’t overflowing with pieces, and a solid 90% of the time the seller is overcharging for them. But we’ll talk about market prices a little later!
But because there isn’t as much demand and pieces are more readily available, prices in JP are typically lower. That and one other key reason.
In the JP scene, it is very normal to cycle pieces through your wardrobe. Once winter is over, they’re selling their winter pieces to make room for spring. This is of course, very different than in the US where we tend to hold onto our garments for a long period of time. This cycle of buying and selling can really help keep prices low, because oftentimes the woman selling them just wants it gone to free up the space for her new purchases.
Are there still scalpers on the JP market? Of course, there are going to be scalpers everywhere, but instead of the market being 90% scalpers 10% good sellers like here it’s flipped, so 10% scalpers 90% good sellers.
Now, that we’ve set up the differences in availability in the markets, let’s talk a little bit more about demand.
Demand is interesting, especially when you compare the markets. For example, while we in the west may love a print, in JP it could have easily have been a miss and vice versa. Don’t expect tastes between cultures to be the same. This can work both in your favor and against it. While a print you might love isn’t seen as particularly beautiful, allowing you get a great deal, that print that is your dream dress might also be super popular over there and you might end up having to compete not only with western girls, but JP ones as well.
A good example of this is Liz Lisa Salon de Patisserie, which is extremely sought after by both, which only continually drives up the price. (For good reason, that print is stunning)
But like every market demand comes and goes, so a seasonal print like Market Street might be super expensive in the lead up to Christmas, but it will be relatively cheaper in the summer when no one is wearing a Christmas print.
You also have to consider that prints are generally more expensive and popular than a plain print. Typically prints are the most sought after, with OPs being second and then skirts/blouses being tied for last. Certain colorways will be more expensive than others based on popularity.
A good example would be Makeup Rabbit.
The OP has four colorways, white, pink, lavender, and black.
There are a few white OPs up for sale on both markets, maybe one pink, but no black or lavender colorways available. Some colorways are simply more desirable than others, and the market, and market prices, will reflect that.
While you’re looking, keep track of what pieces/prints you see and which ones you don’t. Over time you’ll begin a leader board of which pieces are common, and which ones area really hard to come by. Because while video games might tell us an items rarity, real life does not. You have to put the time in and figure it out, because like the seasons, it changes and varies based on a number of factors like; what’s in style right now? What season is it? How long ago was it released? Has there ever been a re-release?
Like I mentioned before, it is a skill, and when you put in the time and effort you’ll begin to tell when you’re really getting a good deal!
It is important here to note that while most times the JP market prices are better, you still have to keep in mind the cost of shipping and any fees you might incur purchasing the item.
Now onto the nitty-gritty, let’s talk about scalpers.
Scalping is when an individual purchases an item with the intent to re-sell the item at an inflated cost to make a profit.
Now that might not sound too awful at face value, but it is frustrating because many of these sellers are not only purchasing items that are sought after by enthusiasts, but pricing them out of the market by overcharging when we intended to purchase the item to begin with, only now we have to pay an inflated cost.
Personally, I refuse to pay.
A lot of J-Fashion scalpers are praying on newer individuals who don’t know how to either purchase from LL directly or how to purchase from the secondhand market. Which, I’ll say it, is shitty. Using shopping services is not complicated, and with a basic walk through you can utilize it in no time. Buyee is incredibly straightforward and is a great place to start! (Though they are expensive comparatively, their ease of use justifies the price tag for beginners)
The hardest part of shopping on the JP market, is figuring out what keywords work for what searches when. SEO (Search engine optimization) and like skills, are just that, skills. You develop them over time, and you get better at finding what you’re looking for quicker. But if you’re just starting it’s as easy as going to mercari.jp, typing in liz lisa and hitting enter.
A lot of J-Fashion is teaching yourself how to do things. From mending a garment, to how to washing one, to finding the dress you want, you just have to dive in and FITFO (Figure it the Fuck Out).
Because while I’ll talk a little bit about prices, at the end of the time it is you as an individual that determines whether a piece is too expensive for you. I have a budget for pieces, but my budget is most likely very different than yours. (I’m either super cheap or take-all-my-money when it comes to pieces, there is no in between)
So now let’s talk about pricing. As mentioned earlier, for the JP market please take into consideration that you will be paying shipping and it will suck, but it is what it is.
Here is current LL retail garment pricing:
OP with print: $105
Skirt with print: $70
Skirt without print: $60-70
That is all without shipping, of course.
Now, let’s talk a little about what those prices mean when buying secondhand.
When buying second hand a piece is going to cost more if it’s NWT (New with Tags). The price will go down as conditions deteriorate. In addition, M, or Size 2, typically run a bit more since there are far fewer M sizes than OS sizes.
There are a few prints that you’ll end up paying more than retail for if it’s NWT or an M size, but by and large any print OP about $120 that is an older print, you’re getting into scalping territory. You should be using the retail prices above as a guide. If they’re charging more than retail prices for an older print, why? Is it because it’s NWT or an M size?
For the love of all that is holy, please DEAR GOD, do NOT take them saying it’s ‘rare’ on the listing as being true. A seller will say whatever they want to say to make a sale, you should take everything on that listing with a grain of salt.
If you want to see if it’s rare, do you research! Put in that elbow grease! If you genuinely aren’t sure about it, see when was the last time it was sold on any US platform. How much did it sell for? What condition was it in? Was it sold in JP recently, what was the price like?
There is a fantastic function on LM (LaceMarket) where you can do an advanced search and only pull up sold listings.
Most of the time, if a listing is listing an item as rare, they’re lying. A genuinely rare item will NOT have to be listed as rare, because it will be purchased by those who know it’s value and are after it. A piece that is sought after doesn’t need an advertisement because the seller knows it will sell quickly.
In reality, you shouldn’t be paying above retail for a piece, unless it’s exceptionally rare and in stellar condition.
When in doubt, look around! See who’s wearing what and keep your ear to the grapevine. What women are wearing what? What prints are the most popularly worn?
I’ll end this slightly rambling blog post with a few closing thoughts.
The metaphor of searching through a jungle while the floor is water illustrates just how tough it can be to find the pieces you’re looking for. It takes time and dedication to build a wardrobe that you love. When I was really in the thick of it and hunting down items, it took me about 2-3 hours each night to hone my skills and really work to find what I was looking for for the right price. The JP market has new pieces listed each and every day, so it’s something you have to stay on top of, and it can be really time consuming.
The labor of love that is j-fashion, isn’t just monetary, a lot of us put a lot of time and effort into getting our pieces. Don’t get discouraged or feel down, instead I really encourage you to learn as much as you can and to lean into. We all make mistakes, we all have forgotten parcels, and choose the wrong shipping option. But that is how you learn, and how you grow. My favorite saying when it comes to buying second hand is “you win some, you lose some”. There are times you’ll want to dance around in joy that you got the deal of a lifetime, and other times you’ll want to cry because you missed your dream dress. It happens, it’s the nature of the beast, but you have to get up, dust off your OP, and get back in there.