By and  on March 27, 2012

TOKYO — Tokyo Fashion Week wrapped last week, showing a dip in attendance from previous seasons. But buyers voiced a certain degree of optimism about the strength of the designers’ collections.Most of the fall-winter action was packed into a five-day period from March 19 through March 23, with some outlying events spilling over into the two weekends. RELATED STORY: Fall 2012 Trend: Tokyo Go >>  Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tokyo organizers said that 17,100 people attended this season’s on-schedule runway shows and presentations. A longer version of the event back in October drew 26,300 people, and the March 2010 event registered attendance of 17,821. The fall-winter shows of March last year were canceled after the tsunami disaster.But the number of foreign buyers is increasing steadily. In March 2010, 62 international buyers attended while 88 came in October. This season, the figure rose to 121.Some of the highlights of the last part of the week included:Everlasting Sprout:Keiichi Muramatsu turned out a dainty, feminine collection. There were striped, textured knits as tops or dresses and some funky yet girly carrot-shaped pants and overalls. Punchy Scandinavian-type floral prints appeared on short pants and matching tops. There were also a few more sober-looking florals in yellow, pink and green with a vaguely Seventies vibe to them. A few numbers in tweed, including a ruffled pedal pusher, punctuated the show.Mikio Sakabe:Mikio Sakabe blurred gender lines by dressing male models in schoolgirl-inspired skirts, culottes and sailor tops. Textured knits in pastel shades of pink, blue and green were paired with white long johns, and manga-inspired faces graced everything from heather gray sweatpants and sweatshirts to crisp white shirts. True to his unpredictable nature, Sakabe had the faces of two of his models painted dark blue or purple with contrasting neon-colored lips, and others wore rhinestone tiaras on their heads.G.V.G.V.:This brand’s designer, who goes by the name Mug, showed her fall collection in an underground parking garage on a glitter-strewn runway. She utilized several incarnations and sizes of paisley, from a rich pink and green woven fabric to large rhinestone motifs, on button-down blouses and jersey tops. Her silhouettes were tailored and ladylike, from pencil skirts and fitted peplum dresses to both slim and relaxed pantsuits. The colors ranged from bright green and baby blue to deep purple and navy, with textiles from wool checks and pinstripes to fur and leatherlike materials. Mug finished the collection off with multicolored, glittery heeled oxfords and glitter pouches attached to skinny belts.Facetasm:Hiromichi Ochiai turned out a street-smart collection full of plaid and animal prints for fall. He started things off with a black cape over baggy tartan shorts. He then produced a series in leopard print, including kilts, skirts, leggings and a long coat in mustard yellow. He then progressed to leather, creating a leather man-dress with curious echoes of workwear. In terms of the women’s offerings, there were some sharp, colorful pleated skirts. There were also intriguing takes on the varsity jacket and the shearling jacket, as well as pants with a pleated kilt in the back.Phenomenon:In what was clearly one of the most polished shows of the Tokyo season, Takeshi Osumi worked jacquard into tailored pieces and paired them with dark denim and bold basics in colors like tangerine and lime. He then progressed to what can only be categorized as statement outerwear in the form of a jacket bearing the image of a horse, an orange corduroy coat and a sequence of camouflage jackets with special detailing like pleated leather trim. He then moved on to suit jackets with shorts and a tweed jacket with leather sleeves.Aware that the fashion week is still evolving, some buyers had positive things to say about the designers’ work this season.“I think the men’s collections are of a very high level, like Phenomenon, Factotum and Facetasm. Also Mastermind and Undercover…even in Asia and Europe, Tokyo men’s brands are [quite strong]. I think the ladies’ [brands] are weaker,” said Hajime Nakagawa, a buyer for young and irregular size ladies apparel at Isetan Shinjuku store, which carries Japanese brands like Theatre Products, Beautiful People, Mint Designs, G.V.G.V. and The Dress & Co.He said his budget for Japanese brands for spring increased about 10 to 20 percent compared with the previous season, but due to store renovations, it will be down again in the fall, and then increase again for spring 2013.“Even though we don’t carry it, recently I’m interested in [Mikio Sakabe and its sister brand, Jenny Fax]. I think what they’re doing is extremely interesting, and I think it would be of interest overseas as well. I’d like to carry [those brands] in the future. It’s based on the customers, so if we can communicate it in a good way to customers, I think it would be very good,” Nakagawa said.Still, he said that he feels that it would take a major brand’s participation in the week to lure a serious contingent of international buyers. “I think if Comme des Garçons participated in Tokyo Fashion Week, all the buyers would come [from overseas]. I think it needs something as big as that,” he reasoned.Simon Burstein, chief executive officer of Browns and a guest of Japan Fashion Week organizers, said he picked up two Japanese men’s brands for this season. One is Fagassent by Toshiki Aoki, a young graduate of the London College of Fashion. “[He] created some very cool jeans in great textures: woven leopard print, overstiched zigzag effect and burnt-out, bleached, low-cut tight-fitting jeans,” Burstein said.The other new label at Browns is Mando by designer Mando Takasu, which features soft, unconstructed cord patchwork jackets, embroidered woven waistcoats and embroidered shirts. Neither Fagassent nor Mando staged an on-calendar runway show this season.Burstein also said the store is looking at In Process by Hall Ohara as well as kimono-print gift items by Kaori Sumi for Kaos.“My trip to Tokyo was refreshing, and it was great to meet passionate designers, most of them unfortunately unsuitable for European markets due to them focusing on the home market and not pricing in a competitive manner,” he said. Miyako Sekimoto, fashion director at Matsuya department store, said she thinks the retailer will increase its budget for Japanese designers for the fall-winter season. She said she is pleased to see Japanese brands with a strong identity that carries through from season to season, unlike much of the sameness she sees at the collections in Europe.“The level of the Tokyo collections went up really drastically,” she said, adding that she was impressed by Somarta, Mint Designs, Matohu and Support Surface.Even though the yen is strong, giving the store more purchasing power when it comes to European brands, Matsuya is shifting more of its budget to homegrown talents with reasonable prices and unique looks, she said. “We like to stick to Japanese designers.”Lorenzo Hadar, owner of the California-based H. Lorenzo boutiques, also said he was impressed by the increasing strength of Japanese designers’ offerings.“I thought the collections matured a lot from the previous time. It’s become a little more sophisticated in a way, a bit more European,” Hadar said. Like Nakagawa, he also saw changes in the men’s collections. “I see a lot of coming out of the dark fashion…to a little bit more colorful. I would say it’s even a little more American. It’s a bit more casual, but in a nice way.”Hadar said his budget has remained steady, and he continues to buy brands like G.V.G.V., Toga and Sacai. For the first time this season, he has also added both men’s and women’s pieces from Facetasm to his mix. “I found it a bit fresh. It was nice,” he said of the brand’s collection. Hadar said he is also considering purchasing some items from Nozomi Ishiguro, “to do something a little more crazy.”Of the overall organization of Tokyo Fashion Week, Hadar said that while he has seen some improvement, there is still a ways to go, particularly when it comes to scheduling.“It’s so spread out, is the only downside. I’d love to change that,” he said. “It’s so difficult coming from the States. I have to stay for so long to catch everything. It would be better to have everything in one week or even 10 days, not three or four weeks.”A noteworthy addition to the Japan Fashion Week festivities this season was Ginza Runway, a fashion show open to the public. The event was a part of the larger Ginza Fashion Week, which aims to bring the festivities of fashion week to a wider audience through a series of shopping events, promotions. Matsuya and Isetan Mitsukoshi teamed up for the initiative. One of the bigger events took place Saturday, when fashion week organizers, various government branches and the Japan Jeans Association held a denim-themed fashion show in the heart of Ginza to promote the textile.A section of Chuo-dori between the Matsuya and Mitsukoshi department stores was blocked off to traffic from noon, and in the early afternoon, models paraded down a 330-foot stretch, wearing creations by a host of Japanese and international brands, as well as by students from five vocational schools.The models included children from two schools, one near Ginza and another near the tsunami-affected area of northeastern Japan. In addition to denim creations, other styles on show included casual sportswear, formal kimono and kid’s clothing. Tickets to the event, which was open to the public, were sold out in advance, but eager viewers still crowded the street behind the seats, hoping to catch a view of the show. Despite a cold, rainy start to the day, the sun came out just in time for the event, so ticket holders didn’t need the disposable raincoats provided to them by event organizers. 

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