TOKYO — Designers here showcased everything from frilly Victorian lace numbers to hard-edged looks with an Eighties feel at the ninth edition of Japan Fashion Week, which wrapped its six-day run on Saturday.
Although fewer people attended the spring shows than the year before, there are signs that Tokyo labels are gaining some international momentum — albeit in very small quantities.
The number of people attending the official spring shows actually slid to 15,311 from 17,774 people last year, a phenomenon government-subsidized JFW blamed on some brands choosing smaller venues this season. But there were more foreign media and buyers present this time around. Some 249 representatives of foreign media organizations came to the shows, up from 212 last year, while the number of international buyers rose to 125 from 19 the year before.
Nobuyuki Ota, president of Issey Miyake Inc. and chief of JFW’s collection project committee, said the shows attracted more buyers from Asia than expected and he’s thinking about staging a fashion-related event at next year’s World Expo in Shanghai.
“It’s very important to get more buyers and press from China,” he said at Tokyo Midtown, the week’s official venue.
Tapping into the ever-growing Chinese market can help designers offset sluggish demand in Japan and other mature markets. Bain & Co. recently forecast that luxury goods sales in Mainland China will grow 12 percent this year, while those in Japan will fall 10 percent. Over the next decade, growth in China and other Asian countries could propel Asia past Europe and the Americas to become the largest global luxury market region in the world, the consultancy said.
Japanese designers, many of whom run extremely small businesses with a string of retail accounts, are facing plenty of challenges as the economic crisis persists, consumers trade down to fast-fashion labels and retailers continue to be hesitant about stocking untested brands. This month’s news that Yohji Yamamoto filedfor bankruptcy protection and lost control of his company to a group of investors dealt another blow to the Japanese fashion industry’s image.
Ota said he was surprised the number of presentations didn’t decrease from last season, but instead actually increased slightly from a year ago, to 39 events.
“The reason is that [the designers] are keeping their business,” he said. “But we need more support.”
Designer Mikio Sakabe, who runs his label with his Taiwan-born wife, Shueh Jen-Fang, said his retail accounts in Europe are stable and he expects the same for his business in Japan.
“Not everyone is taking risks, but some are really trying to get new types of designers. So that’s partly helping us,” he said.
Ota said Japanese buyers tend to be more reluctant than their counterparts in the U.S. and Europe when it comes to placing orders with new designers. Although there is evidence that’s starting to change.
“Fortunately, now the big department stores like Takashimaya, Mitsukoshi and Isetan are buying more domestic young designers. It’s good,” he said.
Design highlights of the week included:
• Mikio Sakabe’s macabre reworking of heavy-metal T-shirts into dresses.
• Akira Naka’s edgy form-fitted tailored pieces.
• DressCamp’s dresses in bold prints featuring intricate beading and jewel details.
• Matohu’s fresh geometric prints, kimono-wrap jackets and a blue green palette inspired by ancient Japanese pottery.
• Tiny Dinosaur’s stunning trenchcoat with lantern sleeves and delicate dresses with abstract, kaleidoscopic bursts of color.
• Mint Designs’ dainty dresses featuring textured fabrics and quirky graphics.
Overall, retailers had a mixed reaction to the week.
Miyako Sekimoto, Matsuya’s fashion director, said she was pleased to see brands like Mint Designs, Matohu and Somarta develop a good balance between creativity and wearable, commercially viable clothing.
“That is the consumers’ feeling. They don’t want to spend money on clothes they can only wear for one season,” she said. Sekimoto added her store will probably buy more Mint Designs pieces this season, but can’t increase its overall budget or pick up any new Tokyo designers since Matsuya is in the process of renovating its Ginza flagship.
Jason Brar, director of a soon-to-be-launched e-commerce site called Harajuku Freak, said he found a lot of unique, wearable clothing that isn’t overly architectural and intellectual as Japanese brands can sometimes be. He found bright spots at labels such as Motonari Ono, Ato, G.V.G.V. and Theatre Products.
“The shows were quite dazzling sometimes,” he said. “I’m not going to buy a lot from any designer, I’m going to buy just a few pieces, and I want to keep it quite limited on purpose.”
Takatomo Ogawa, a buyer and representative at Nagoya-based Nara Store, was less upbeat, although he liked Tiny Dinosaur, Suzuki Takayuki and Mint Designs.
“The excitement of the Tokyo collections this time was relatively low in terms of collections that were unique and introduced new styles,” he said.
@fearofgod and @maxfieldla have teamed up on a pop-up installation. The store, located in the gallery space across from Maxfield’s Melrose Ave location, is the site of the brand’s House of God pop-up in which Fear of God founder @jerrylorenzo has created a church-inspired installation. A dozen vintage church pews sit in front of an LED screen playing 90s gospel singers in an effort to re-create an environment akin to a Southern Baptist Church, Lorenzo explained. Read more about the pop-up on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: Jennifer Johnson)
Known for his sleek, sophisticated American glamour, Norman Norell is the subject of an upcoming exhibition at @fitnyc. “Norell: Dean of American Fashion,” which runs from February 9 through April 14, will feature approximately 100 ensembles and accessories. His best work is exemplified by the designer’s glittering “mermaid” gowns frosted with thousands of hand-sewn sequins – like the one pictured. (📷: William Helburn) #wwdfashion
For pre-fall 2018, @balmain didn’t let go of the glitz. A crystal embroidered baseball jacket priced at around $40,000 hangs in the “couture” section of the brand’s first men’s pre-collection. Sporting the words “Balmain Army” across the back, the item took around two months to make. “When it was completed, it was like Christmas, it was like, ‘It’s done, it’s exactly what I wanted,’” said Balmain’s creative director @olivier_rousteing during a tour of the collection in a Paris showroom on Monday. #wwdfashion
Eighty degree temperatures and outdoor installations at the annual Art Basel Miami Beach called for bright, elevated beachwear. See more street style pictures on WWD.com. #theyarewearing #ABMB (📷: @lifeinreverie)
Following September’s emotional tribute to her brother Gianni, Donatella Versace wanted to bring the spring show’s deep sense of intimacy to her @versace_official pre-fall collection. Donatella found inspiration in Versace Palazzo in Milan and from Gianni’s opulent apartment. Archival patterns and new motifs were splashed on silk shirtdresses and fitted jersey frocks. See the rest of the photos on WWD.com. #wwdfashion
Demna Gvasalia continues to shake up the Paris fashion calendar — and experiment with new runway timetables for his @vetements_official brand. WWD has learned that Vetements plans to stage its next coed show for the fall 2018 season on January 19 during Men’s Fashion Week in the French capital. Details about the timing and venue have not been confirmed — stay tuned on WWD.com to catch the latest. #wwdnews (📷: @giovanni_giannoni_photo)
@zacposen's go-to holiday gift? Cookies! "I'll usually bake cookies and send them as a gift," said the designer, who recently released his cookbook "Cooking With Zac: Recipes from Rustic to Refined." Get the recipe for his Brown Butter-Chocolate Chip Cookies via link in bio 🍪🍪🍪 #wwdeye #cookingwithzac
For @monsemaison’s pre-fall 2018 collection, Fernando Garcia and Laura Kim honed in on the brand’s many signatures — men’s wear, which was tweaked and feminized through deconstruction, proportion play and lots of bare shoulders. See the rest of the photos on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: George Chinese)
On Friday night, @yohjiyamamotoofficial received the Design for Asia Lifetime Achievement Award in Hong Kong. The 75-year-old designer has been celebrated for many years and is best known for his dark and avant-garde tailoring. “In my long career, in design, architecture, [I’ve been to] so many parties, this is the very first time that I have such a warm feeling, I really appreciate this,” Yamamoto said. #wwdfashion (📷: @dominiquemaitre)