By  on October 24, 2011

TOKYO — Japan Fashion Week came to a close on Saturday after six-and-a-half days of runway shows and related events, registering a substantial jump in the number of attendees.

Attendance figures for the Tokyo shows grew at a double-digit clip compared to a year ago, although, unlike previous seasons, there were several periphery events and parties, some of which were open to the public. The fall-winter shows in March were canceled after the tsunami disaster.

The total number of attendees to the 44 on-calendar runway shows and installations was 26,300, an increase of more than 10,000 over last year. Some of that jump is attributable to a series of shows on Saturday, to which tickets were sold on the online shopping site Zozotown for 1,000 yen, or $13 at current exchange, each per show, with proceeds going toward the Japanese Red Cross. Also of importance, the shows last year were five days instead of six and half this time around. The number of foreign buyers was also up, totaling 88 this season, compared with 50 a year ago.

The week was the first full-fledged season since IMG came on board, securing big-name sponsors such as Mercedes-Benz, Maybelline New York and DHL.

“I think the new sponsors helped make [the event] showier than it was before,” said Miyako Sekimoto, fashion director at Matsuya. “It was also a little more organized, with fewer bothersome aspects.”

Despite contracts with sponsors, organizers said the total budget for this year actually decreased when compared with last year, due to a smaller contribution from the Japanese government.

“The budget went from about 600 million yen [$7.86 million] last year to about 500 million yen [$6.55 million] this year for two seasons,” said Kenji Yamazaki, senior director of Japan Fashion Week Organization.

The organization said it reallocated this year’s budget for the canceled March shows for other promotional activities. In addition to selling tickets for the Saturday shows, various events were held around the city in an effort to increase awareness of fashion week among the general public. These included a Ginza shopping night organized by Matsuya and Mitsukoshi department stores and Shibuya Fashion Festival, a Fashion’s Night Out-style event in which over 120 stores participated.

Highlights of the shows in the latter part of the week included:

• Shida Tatsuya’s sculptural asymmetric dresses featuring swathes of striped and polka-dot fabric.

• Takashi Mori’s innovative textiles for his brand Molfic, with tonal patterns in the knit or prints imitating weaves. Suits and tuxedos were in high-tech materials like a Windbreaker nylon and a silklike fabric that shimmered slightly under the lights.

• Hiromichi Ochiai’s fun, colorful collection for Facetasm, with lots of layering and mixing of colors and patterns, such as stripes, checks and florals. Shiny satin, chunky knits, velour lapels and gnarled natural fabrics were used throughout the collection.

• Phenomenon designer Takeshi Osumi’s sailing-inspired men’s collection of classic blazers, Bermuda shorts, Windbreakers and slim pants cuffed at the ankle. Osumi injected both a dose of humor and a cool factor in the form of plastic belts molded in the shape of bullets, motorcycle jackets covered in polka dots, and jeans with attached asymmetric culottes.

• Mint Designs’ collection had a slightly Sixties Carnaby Street vibe to it with colorful polka dots, checks and stripes. But the cuts and proportions weren’t typical go-go fare and channeled a distinctly Tokyo sensibility. The brand’s designers, Hokum Katsui and Nao Yagi, are celebrating the house’s 10th anniversary.

• Anrealage designer Kunihiko Morinaga used a vacuum technique on fabric to stretch it over various molds and create 3-D effects. Using this method, he created virtual buttons and flaps on a trenchcoat and the relief of a backpack on one look.

• Mastermind Japan’s spectacle of a closing show, which included a live boy band, models tossing stuffed animals into the audience, a preview of the brand’s collaboration with Mercedes, which is due to be released next year and plenty of metallic confetti.

The reactions from buyers seemed to be fairly positive across the board. “There were many bright colors,” said Etsuko Hosono, buyer for H.P. France Exclusive, a chain of boutiques carrying brands from Europe, the U.S. and Japan. “I felt like [the collections] were very energetic.”

Yoko Mieda, a buyer for World Corp., agreed, but added that people seem to be looking for more unique, high-quality items than previously. “Before, many people were buying very cheap things,” she said. “Now the quality is getting better as people are looking for very good things, even if they’re more expensive.”

Fujiki Kumagai, who owns a boutique selling a mix of vintage items and Japanese brands, didn’t attend any of the shows but instead visited RoomsLink, a trade show held in conjunction with fashion week. “I didn’t see much men’s [things], but for ladies I noticed things that look very summery and easy to wear,” he said. “It’s not fashion fashion, but closer to [everyday] clothes.” Kumagai mentioned that although he won’t be buying it because it doesn’t fit his store’s aesthetic, one of his favorite new brands was Y.M. Walts. Although the brand’s designer, Akie Mabuchi, did not stage a runway show, Kumagai said that her line has already been picked up by department store Isetan.

Sekimoto also wasn’t able to attend many shows, but she mentioned Somarta, Shida Tatsuya, Mint Designs and Anrealage as being some of the standouts. “Shida Tatsuya did basic stripes in a way I’ve never seen before,” she said. “Mint Designs has its own character, and all the pieces were linked together. Anrealage was very conceptual, and therefore interesting for that reason.”

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