Bunhill: Emporium's new clothes

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AS THE thorny problem of Japan's trade surplus with almost everyone returns, it is cheering to hear that one British business has succeeded in penetrating the bamboo curtain.

Taylor of Old Bond Street, a long-established private hairdressing and personal grooming products firm, has tapped the rich vein of Japanese fascination with firms such as Burberry and Dunhill.

After two years of negotiation, Taylor's range of shaving soaps, razors and animal bone combs has gone on sale at a Taylor of Old Bond Street outlet in the new Metropole Plaza mall in downtown Tokyo.

That is not all. With irrefutable logic the Japanese licensee, Base International, insisted from the outset that Taylor should sell suits as well. Surmounting the minor difficulty that Taylor has never tailored anything in its 137-year history, the locals are making up suits, shirts, ties, shoes and socks with 'The Taylor Tradition' emblazoned on the label.

About 75 per cent of turnover at the new outlet is expected to be in the expensive clothing from which Taylor will draw a royalty. The remaining 25 per cent comes from lavender shaving foams, natural hair conditioners, after-shave and toothbrushes.

Dodwell & Co, a subsidiary of the trading group Inchcape, which has 30 years' experience in the Far East, dreamed up the venture and has jumped through the hoops of import licensing on Taylor's behalf.

The shaving foam alone required nine applications written in Japanese, one for each ingredient. 'I don't understand the system. I don't even inquire,' remarks Leonard Taylor, chairman of the family firm.