TOKYO — While other industry executives are cancelling their Asian trips because of SARS, Jill Stuart came to Japan earlier this month to hold her first-ever runway shows here.

The finale was a show and party for about 3,000 fans held in Garden Hall in the Ebisu neighborhood of Tokyo, where Stuart was surrounded by dancing young Japanese women shooting her and the clothes with their camera-installed cell phones.

Stuart’s tour of Japan began April 25, when she arrived with a large mask over her nose and mouth to protect her against SARS. “This event was very important, and I decided to come,” she said on arriving.

But Stuart soon removed her mask to rush around Japan. She held fashion shows and parties in Osaka on April 26, and Nagoya on April 28 before arriving in Ebisu on May 2. At the events, “Jill Girls” were selected by the designer, and tickets for her fashion show in New York were given to the first-prize winner.

At each event, customers presented her with letters and presents. “They are so special to me,” said Stuart. “Having contact with them every year in Japan means a lot.”

Her first trip to Japan was six years ago, when the unique fashions of Japanese teenagers quickly caught her eye. “They are very fashion-conscious and good at coordinating items in their own way,” said Stuart. “Actually, their energy fuels and inspires my design work.”

In Japan, apparel maker San-ei International has run the designer’s business since the spring-summer 1997 season and now has about 30 shops throughout the country.

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