June 1st, 2012
07:26 AM GMT
(CNN) – Salarimen, throw on your Hawaiian shirts: it’s that time of year again in Japan. “Super Cool Biz,” the Ministry of Environment’s annual energy reduction campaign, officially launches Friday across the country.
To reduce electricity use in corporate workplaces, Super Cool Biz encourages office workers to eschew their usual black suits for lighter clothing, including Hawaiian shirts, polo shirts, T-shirts, jeans, and sandals.
The campaign has been an inadvertent boon to clothing retailers, who have not only increased their stock of these items, but also specially designed garments for the season.
Among them is lingerie manufacturer Triumph’s “Super Cool Bra.” The bra’s cups are filled with a gel which, after being placed in the freezer for a few hours, will help keep the wearer’s body cool while remaining soft at the same time.
After being stung by reduced sales of suit jackets last summer, men’s clothiers have also produced new “Cool Biz” lines with lighter, more breathable fabrics. Sanyo Shokai Ltd. is launching six new types of suit jackets that include technology to absorb sweat and block heat, according to the Mainichi Newspaper. Renown Inc. has doubled its “Cool Biz” products to 119 items, including lighter versions of its Durban line of suit jackets and accessories like belts and neckties.
Textiles companies have also incorporated sportswear materials into business wear. Teijin Ltd. is using polyester with pH control to reduce sweat odor. Toray Industries Inc. is working with apparel makers to develop “Cool Avenue” shirts and pants using polyester and nylon cool to the touch, projecting sales of 50,000-60,000 items worth one billion yen in total.
Shares of menswear retailers, such as Konaka, Aoyama Trading Co. and Aoki Holding Inc. have steadily rose since the weather—and Cool Biz sales—began warming up in late April, according to The Nikkei Report.
Despite the relaxed dress code, there still are suggested standards to be upheld: T-shirts must be in solid colors, jeans smart-looking without tears, and undergarment-like tops such as camisoles and flip-flop sandals are banned.
The government is also advising that working hours be shifted earlier, and overtime be reduced.
Complete with a government-sponsored fashion show, Super Cool Biz was introduced last year to conserve energy during the hot summer months following the Fukushima nuclear disaster. It built upon “Cool Biz”, an annual campaign introduced in 2005, which urged office workers to forgo wearing ties and set air conditioner thermostats at 28 degrees Celsius (82.4 degrees Fahrenheit).
Alongside Super Cool Biz and Cool Biz this year, the Ministry of Environment is also promoting “Cool Share”, which encourages people to share air conditioning units as much as possible. Residents are advised to turn on air conditioning in only one room of their home and have all members of the household congregate there. Alternatively, they can switch off their home air conditioning units entirely and hang out in air-conditioned public venues instead.
Last year’s Super Cool Biz was considered a cool success, as the country avoided widespread brownouts and blackouts despite a reduced supply of nuclear energy. This year will be a greater challenge, as Japan tries to stay cool without drawing on nuclear energy at all. Pre-Fukushima, nuclear sources comprised 30% of the country’s energy consumption.
Super Cool Biz will run through September.
-CNN's Kyung Lah contributed to this post
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