Uniformly panned: Japan Armani school kit sparks storm

Critics said parents would feel compelled to buy them to ensure their children were not left out

TOKYO: A Japanese school’s plan to introduce Armani-branded uniforms for its students, at a cost of nearly $750 (Dh2,752) a set, has sparked complaints and fierce debate, even reaching as far as parliament.

The local education board confirmed to AFP that the Taimei Elementary School in Tokyo’s flashy Ginza district will adopt the designer uniforms from April, with a full set costing parents around 80,000 yen ($740).

While the school says the new uniforms are not mandatory, critics said parents would feel compelled to buy them to ensure their children were not left out.

Kyodo News agency said the local education board had received a string of complaints from parents, unconvinced by the school’s explanation that the designer uniform would be good branding.

In a letter announcing the uniform, the administration reportedly said the outfits were a bid to tie the 150-year-old school to the upscale Ginza district where it is located.

But that did little to sway public opinion.

“This shouldn’t have been about designer brands, or tradition. The officials should have thought about the children and made a decision after holding discussions,” one parent, who did not wish to be identified, told national broadcaster NHK.

“This is outrageous, kids’ sizes change,” one disgruntled commentator wrote online.

The uniform features sharply tailored blazers as well as add-ons like bags that can push the total set’s cost to around 90,000 yen, a price another commentator described as “just too expensive for uniforms for fast-growing children.”

Opposition lawmaker Manabu Terada even raised the issue during a parliamentary session, questioning the logic of such an expensive uniform at a public school with students from a range of backgrounds.

Asked to comment on the issue, Finance Minister Taro Aso, known for his own tailored Savile Row-style suits, acknowledged that he thought the planned attire was “expensive for an elementary school”.

“It might be problematic if only one student cannot afford it,” he said.

Italian brand Armani retains a particular nostalgic prestige for some in Japan, who associate it with the boom years of the economy.

But with those days long past, the pricey uniforms appear all the more incongruous to some.

“These uniforms are far more expensive that the suits I’m wearing,” one commentator grumbled.


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