By  on November 23, 2005

Japanese trade shows focus their efforts on young and lesser-known designers.

TOKYO — Though the effects of the Japanese recession have somewhat abated, the nation's fashion industry is looking for different ideas and new producers to help Japanese fashion regain its footing and wage an effective fight against competition from trade shows in other Asian nations, China in particular.

Japan's four big fashion exhibitions — International Fashion Fair, Japan Creation, Frontier and Rooms — are at the vanguard of this change, and are looking for ways to stand out from the pack and attract creative young designers.

Last year, IFF instituted The Creators Village, a venue for independent and less well-known retailers to show their products, and more than 150 exhibitors took advantage of the new opportunity and participated at the last show.

"We are ready to offer more effort for new creators," said Naohiko Kato, general executive director of Japan Fashion Association, which organizes IFF. The goal of the show, which generally attracts about 30,000 visitors, is to create more business opportunities for everyone there, he said.

Masafumi Ogada, a designer with MCW who has attended IFF several times in the past and showed last year in The Creators Village, said that the show is meeting this goal. Though orders aren't typically written up on-site at IFF, "every year I receive many inquiries, and some of them become big business opportunities," he said.

The next edition of IFF is scheduled for Jan. 18-20 at Tokyo Big Sight.Japan Creation, held Dec. 7-9, is widely recognized as Asia's most comprehensive trade fair for fabrics and textiles, and there are a number of smaller JC shows that provide visitors with ample opportunity to find quality textiles at all points on the supply chain, according to Mutsuko Tatsukami, a JC producer. Among these shows are the Japan Quality Creators Zone, a venue for textile manufacturers known for their intricate and detailed work, and the Promotions Corners, five spots around JC where exhibitors can showcase their merchandise with help from the organizer.

"More than ever we are highlighting [our] exhibitors' innovation and product array," said Tatsukami.

More than 193 domestic brands and 68 international brands showed at the September edition of Rooms, a new designer showcase held at Tokyo's National Yoyogi Gymnasium. About 7,400 visitors attended the event, known for incorporating gimmicks into the show's format as a way of standing out. Rooms will convene again Feb. 13-15, at the same venue, with a carnival theme. Though plans for the theme have not yet been finalized, one idea being discussed entails a parade of Japanese models in kimonos."Japan is known as a consumption country of fashion products, but Japanese creation is facing [the] time to be introduced widely," said Mika Sato, director of Rooms.

To help new Japanese designers gain exposure, Sato has incorporated a number of elements into the show, including extra space set aside for meetings between vendors and buyers. In addition, a wide range of programs are designed to help new designers become accustomed to doing business in a trade show setting.

"Basically, only invited buyers are welcomed while we give advice to vendors on how to talk and do business with buyers," said Sato, who also helps young designers and buyers to write contracts.

To further aid new vendors, those in business for less than two years can apply for specially designated Yellow booths at the event, which are available for about $1,000, a significant savings over the regular booth price of about $2,500.

In addition to their efforts to attract new designers, Japanese trade shows also are expanding beyond the country's borders in an effort to attract new buyers. The five-times-a-year fashion trade fair Frontier has applied for space at the February 2006 edition of MAGIC in Las Vegas, to aid Japanese brands looking to expand their business in America. Frontier organizers expect 30 to 50 Japanese companies to exhibit at MAGIC, and to show a wide range of products including apparel, accessories, hats, shoes and eyewear, according to a spokesperson for Lock On Inc., the company that organizes Frontier.

"With the help of MAGIC, we are able to reach buyers and media [in the U.S.]," said the spokesperson.

Frontier organizers will help the Japanese exhibitors at MAGIC to prepare documents and work to reduce the cost of attending by assembling the exhibitors to open one big booth. At the same time, they will help buyers at the show to inspect the Japanese products, and obtain information necessary to complete transactions.

"Our main activity is to focus on trade discussion," said a Frontier spokesman. Given the short time window of a trade show, it is important to help buyers and exhibitors come together as easily and quickly as possible to encourage business, he said.

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