By  on April 4, 2007

TOKYO — Japan Fashion Week showcased 38 collections last month and drew a larger number of foreign press and buyers than in previous seasons, which its organizers hope will boost international awareness of local fashion houses.

Domestic designers presented multicolor, pop and sweet motifs and relaxed silhouettes at several sites, including temporary tents in Nihonbashi.

Foreign media numbered 160, from countries including the U.S., China, Taiwan, England, Italy, France, Spain, Holland, Russia, Australia, Argentina and Israel. About 650 domestic fashion journalists covered the shows.

Meanwhile, 60 international retailers attended, representing the U.S., South Korea, Taiwan, China, Russia and Italy, along with 600 Japanese buyers.

Mercibeaucoup, one of the most popular brands among foreigners, kicked off fashion week with a colorful array. Its international business, mainly with Asia, is generating solid sales, according to a spokesman for the brand.

DressCamp introduced volume-silhouette dresses in high- contrast colors, and showed off its collaboration with MCM for tight jackets and Timberland for shoes.

In its second collection, So­marta showed knit dresses with sophisticated, metallic details, while Ne-net presented a range of capes, mixing fantasy and reality. Mintdesigns held its show at a bookstore under the theme of "midnight book club" — models balanced books on their heads as they walked.

Organizers said the figures were satisfactory. The first JFW season in 2005 drew 60 international journalists. This time, however, "There were more inquiries and registrations as well as coverage by foreign press, and we strongly feel the [impact of the] increase in the show's recognition around the world," commented Kyoko Kawashima, a spokeswoman for JFW.

That 2005 round drew only 10 non-Japanese buyers, while the second and the third seasons drew 20 and 50 buyers, respectively. "Sixty [foreign] buyers this time is not a big number, but we are confident in our approach to the buyers, judging from their reaction," said Kawashima.

Retailers had encouraging words for the collections. "I will allocate more of my budget to Japanese designers," said Natasha Koudrjavtseva, sales manager of the five-year-old TFS shop in Moscow. This was her first trip to Japan. She said she is confident that Japanese fashion is marketable in Russia, and that she expected to spend more on these brands than on European designers.Takatoshi Ogawa, buyer and representative for Japanese retailer Nara Store in Nagoya, said, "I left orders for Somarta, Mintdesigns and Tiny Dinosaur for the first time. These brands are unique [yet wearable by real consumers].

"Somarta has its own air, a very 'Tokyo' feel to it," he continued. "I ordered its knitwear and body tights at around $200 to $300, and Mintdesigns' dresses at $300 to $400, knitwear at about $200 to $300 and coats at about $500 to $600. Tiny Dinosaur has a strong individuality. Cut-and-sewn knitwear and bottoms at $200 to $300 will be what my customers love."

Maiko Shibata, ladies' creative merchandiser at Restir, also praised Somarta, noting it is an important part of her store's luxury offering.

"In its Second Skin series, designer Tamae Hirokawa used Swarovski to show off more glitter," she said, citing its chandelier hat and an armor-like dress.

"From the exhibitions during the period, we picked up Yoshiko Creation Paris for its luxurious materials in pop and artistic designs," she added.

Florence Julienne, an editor/writer for the Fashion Daily News in Paris, observed that men's wear is stronger in Tokyo at the moment, and women's is still searching for a voice. She cited "Dress Camp for its creativity, Ato for men's wear, Ne-net and mercibeaucoup, both for kawaii [the Japanese word for 'cute'] influences. Alternative [style] and creativity are here, as well as artistic expression."

The next round of Japanese collections will be held from Aug. 30 to Sept. 5. at Tokyo Midtown.

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