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Japanese School Launches Incubator For Young Designers

Bunka and local government offer cheap office/event space to emerging talents.

TOKYO — Japan’s leading fashion university is spearheading a new project to help support emerging designers and challenge the notion that the country is not doing enough to encourage young talent.

Bunka Gakuen has teamed up with the local government of Tokyo’s Shibuya ward to open a new space called Bunka Fashion Incubation. Occupying two floors in a newly built cultural center, the space includes small offices-cum-workshops for as many as eleven brands. There are also larger rooms that can be used for exhibitions, fashion shows and meetings.

Designers are able to rent office space at a reduced rate, which includes free access to the common areas. Third parties can also reserve the event areas for a reasonable fee. “For small companies, just the cost of getting a space [to work in] can be prohibitive,” said Ikuko Kumagai, a spokeswoman for the project, who declined to disclose an investment figure for the project.

Designers from five brands have already moved into the space, and another six are expected to arrive in the coming weeks. Bunka Fashion Incubation hosted a fashion show Monday night to showcase its tenants. One designer who has set up shop is Hijiri Uchida, who makes modern tailored suits and casual separates for men under his label Halluci. Before moving in, Uchida was renting a small space near Tokyo’s Ginza district but that office didn’t come with free-of-charge event space.

“It can be very difficult to find a reasonably-priced exhibition or show space in Tokyo, so the fact that everything is together in one place is a great merit [for Bunka Fashion Incubation],” he said.

One requirement for designers who wish to rent offices in the center is that they have a plan to establish a company or open a shop in Shibuya ward in the future. But for most young designers in Tokyo, this is almost a given. “Shibuya is the center of Japanese fashion,” said Uchida. “There’s so much activity here; even just when you go out to buy lunch you see interesting things. It’s the perfect place for an incubation center.”