By  on March 17, 2017
Tokyo Fashion Week

TOKYO — Amazon is gearing up to make waves on Japan’s fashion scene.The e-commerce giant signed on as the headline sponsor of Tokyo Fashion Week starting with the spring 2017 season. Rather than immediately making sweeping changes, Amazon used spring as an opportunity to learn from what previous sponsor Mercedes-Benz had done. Now that its second season of sponsorship starts March 20, Amazon is being bolder in its initiatives.One of the key programs launching for fall is called At Tokyo, through which Amazon will support three hot Tokyo brands.“We got a lot of good feedback from designers saying they wanted to work with us, so we found three very different designers and we are putting a package together to support them,” said James Peters, vice president of Amazon Fashion in Japan. “We think it’s a nice group. The reason we picked them is they’re all different…and when we think about Amazon’s customer, we have this broad customer that’s anyone who wears clothing.”The three brands selected for the inaugural season of At Tokyo are Growing Pains, designed by influential musician Mademoiselle Yulia; House_Commune, by Mihoko Shitanaka, and Bedwin & the Heartbreakers, by Masafumi Watanabe. The first two labels will present traditional runway shows, while Watanabe will draw on his streetwear roots and connections to the entertainment industry, showing via a club event featuring performances by several local DJs and musicians, all of whom will be decked out in Watanabe’s designs.All three At Tokyo brands have vastly different aesthetics, but they share one thing in common: None of them had planned to participate in fashion week until they were approached by Amazon. To that end, Amazon is doing what many hoped it would by bringing in fresh talent to Tokyo’s biggest fashion event at a time when many of the city’s most buzzed about brands have recently begun presenting during overseas fashion weeks. There's been a growing consensus among buyers and journalists that a breath of fresh air was needed.In addition to financially supporting the three brands’ shows, Amazon has agreed to carry Growing Pains, House_Commune and Bedwin & the Heartbreakers on its site, exposing the the labels to the platform's vast customer base. Peters said it was important to Amazon to find ways that it could use its experience and expertise to help innovate Tokyo’s fashion week.“We got a lot of questions about see-now-buy-now; we got a lot of questions about how is Amazon going to work with the individual designers,” he said. “And we kept saying we want to do things. The first step was to come in and deliver on that promise.”See-now-buy-now will not be a part of this season’s Tokyo shows, though Peters said the company is ready to do it whenever any of the brands may decide to take that route.This season’s Tokyo Fashion Week will also include shows by more international designers than previous seasons, hosting collections from Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia. As the number of overseas visitors to Tokyo continues to increase, many are wondering whether Tokyo will emerge as a sort of pan-Asian fashion week.According to preliminary figures compiled by the Japan National Tourism Organization, the number of foreign visitors to Japan grew 24 percent on the year in January, and 7.6 percent in February. Both months have seen a total of over two million arrivals. Masaharu Hirokane, a research analyst at Nomura, wrote in a report published Thursday that he expects the total number of overseas visitors to Japan to grow eight percent year-on-year in 2017, for a total of over 26 million.

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