TOKYO — Despite a dearth of international buyers and foreign models, Japanese brands forged ahead to present their fall-winter collections this month and it seems that business is holding up fairly well considering the circumstances.
As reported, last month’s Japan Fashion Week was axed as Japan came to terms with the destruction of a massive earthquake and tsunami as well as radiation fears from a crippled power plant in the northeastern part of the country. A handful of labels — notably Mint Designs, Anrealage, Somarta, Nozomi Ishiguro, Hisui, Mikio Sakabe and Christian Dada — staged their postponed runway shows this month. Other brands stuck to static presentations or crafted online films or look books to show their wares.
“We have to face the reality and think with our own brain not the media’s,” reasoned Akira Naka, on the state of his own country and the scope of it nuclear threat — real or imagined. “We have to tell the truth: we are ok…for fashion we overreacted. We worried too much.”
Naka, who incorporated textured knits and fur trim into his fall collection, said his sales are going ok and his big clients like Mitsukoshi bought the same amount of items they usually do. Since foreign buyers did not venture to Tokyo, he had to communicate with them via photos and descriptions. But he said he still got orders from stores in Asia. “Joyce bought even more,” he said.
Fashion highlights of the past month included:
— Anrealage’s colorful tech-inspired prints
— Mikio Sakabe’s theatrical show in bookstore featuring grungy looks and a musical performance by an anime-inspired quintet
— Hisui’s anti-nuclear statement in the form of a dress bearing a map of Japan and its power plants
— Mint Designs innovative use of fabric textures and quirky headgear made of fluorescent lights
A spokeswoman for Japan Fashion Week said that foreign orders for Japanese labels decreased significantly as buyers didn’t make the trip. Stores stuck to the brands they know well and didn’t take risks on new names. But she said the drop in orders from Japanese retailers was not as pronounced.
“They believe that from fall-winter, things will return to normal,” she said.
Hiroshi Kubo, creative director and chief buyer for menswear at Beams, said the store hasn’t made any adjustments to its buying strategy for Japanese designers for fall-winter.
“Our buying is based only on the quality of a collection, and we are reacting positively to the collections this time. Despite worries of a post-crisis sales drop, we have seen good sales, thus have not had to downsize any of our budgets. “We felt everyone’s effort to be extra cooperative with each other, as everyone was affected by the earthquake to some extent.”
Miyako Sekimoto, fashion director at Matsuya, was not able to attend many collection presentations this season but she said the store’s budget for Japanese designers is about the same as last year. She said business is bouncing back as Japanese people realize they need to support the economy to help the country.
“Three weeks after the earthquake our sales started to increase little by little. It’s not at least year’s level but it’s very close,” she said. “All the consumers are waiting for some type of chance to spend their money.”
Still, Sekimoto said she still has some concerns about if and when cash-rich tourists from China and other Asian countries will return to Japan. There are still some of these shoppers trickling through Ginza but only for quick two or three day trips, she said. “It will take time.”
A spokeswoman from United Arrows said that the retailer is actually buying more Japanese fall-winter women’s merchandise than it did last year to show its support for the country’s designers and brands. It focused its buying on labels like Sacai, Beautiful People, Kaon, Laula and Muveil, she said.
Last week, RoomsLink, a fashion trade show held its fall-winter edition to coincide with some of the runway shows and presentations taking place around town. It was postponed by a month and was originally going to take place during Japan Fashion Week. Organizer Tomonori Matsui said overall attendance numbers actually rose to 8,600 people from 8,000 from the spring-summer season but there were fewer international buyers. There were only about representatives from 10 non-Japanese stores present at the fair, down from about 37 last time.
Matsui said the one-month delay actually boosted business at the fair. Although he was unable to give precise figures, he said orders actually increased this season. Buyers attending their show were working closer to their buying deadline and were more likely to make immediate decisions, he explained.
“The feeling was one of looking forward,” he said, adding that he’s already making plans for the next edition of the fair in the fall. “I think by October most people [from other countries] will feel it’s OK to come back to Japan.”