Love Letter

Got a Yen to Spend

by Monica Barnett

On the streets of Ginza. Photo: Jun Takeuchi / Flickr

When you're overwhelmed by Japan's big shopping districts (and the even bigger bucks you need to carry in your wallet), remember to take delight in the little things. Stylist and shopping junkie Monica Barnett shows us how.

TOKYO – I love meeting at coffee shops with friends to hash out details on an upcoming style project, chat about the new handbag or shoe in one of our favorite stores, or dream about the next-big-thing on our to-do lists.  On a particularly pleasant winter day, I am talking with my mini-advisory board, as I like to call them, about my urge to fly somewhere for fashion inspiration, when one shouts "I'm going to Tokyo!" A quick flashback to an old Vanity Fair article and images of vintage Chloe and I suddenly chime in: We're going to Tokyo.

We plan out six days of shopping (it's a girl's trip after all), which includes hitting up all the major retail stores (everything's better in Asia). When we arrive, I expect to be overwhelmed with sound, but the traffic is really more like a hum. Tokyo, as big and cosmopolitan as it is, is not a noisy city. I am overwhelmed by prices though — they're insane. The average Louis Vuitton bag is almost 20-40 percent more expensive than in the States because of the exchange rate. It's painfully clear that a new plan of action is in order. 

Kio Boutique

As I consider this, there's a momentary lull on the streets of Ginza, and I spot a storefront with delicate, green, italicized writing that simply says Kio. My attention is drawn to an old-school doctor's bag in the window and a darling size 4 dress form. It's a little dress in a little store forgotten on a block full of shopping giants.

Kio is lightly scented with jasmine, a welcome change since the store sits 100 feet from an underpass where a highly regarded sushi spot emits a distinct smell of tuna and ginger. The goods are good: Well-maintained bags are carefully placed in chairs or hung on coat racks. I try to maintain my cool as I spot a mint condition camel-colored Prada trench from the '90s. (I have that Christmas morning feeling.) 

The antique secretary desk has jewelry artfully placed in every drawer. Mirrors are thoughtfully placed throughout the shop to allow you to catch a well-lit glimpse of yourself. The owner, Kio, a demure and petite woman, has taken care to share vintage finds that are extraordinary: a perfect pea green, leather travel suitcase with double silver locks and silk lining; '90s classic chic stylingslike cropped quilted blazers and layers of pearls. These are not the kinds of items you can easily find in the US. I've covered vintage stores and dress houses across the States without finding booty like this.

Kio Boutique

With a slightly depressed US dollar, stays at the Grand Hyatt Tokyo, Four Seasons Chinzan-so and Marunochi, and The Westin Tokyo, some sacrifices had to be made. But at Kio, I didn't feel the pinch quite as much as other places. And after all those big desires, my favorite acquisitions ended up being a sweet red and blue Dior scarf and a small gold Hermès cardigan pin. I walked away with a new discovery and a little something shiny to show for it.


1-2-14 Yurakucho
Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 

Photos: Courtesy of Kio.

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