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TOKYO — Japan Fashion Week capped its eight-day run last week, drawing accolades from buyers and presenting a variety of looks from clean tailored trenchcoats to Goth bloomers.
Overall, buyers voiced positive reactions to the shows and presentations.
Philip Manghisi of Jeffrey, a guest who received a paid trip to Tokyo from JFW organizers, said he was impressed with the quality of the men’s wear offering, particularly Phenomenon and Whiz Limited. He is hoping the store will be able to pick up some Tokyo merchandise, but it will be challenging to find the budget for it after the collections in Europe and New York, he explained.
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Echoing observations made by other Japan Fashion Week observers, Manghisi said it is hard to see where Tokyo fits into the broader international fashion picture, given its distant geographic location to Europe and the United States and its positioning in the calendar after a marathon month of fashion shows taking place in New York, London, Milan and Paris. That said, he sees an American market for some of the clothes he saw here.
“In New York, it’s relatively simple to find international brands. You can buy, you know, Gucci at a million stores, you can buy Celine at a million stores. You can buy Prada, Givenchy. All these stores carry those things. So I think that a lot of designer customers want to find something that is on par with those brands, but something that they can’t find anywhere else,” he said.
Lorenzo Hadar of H Lorenzo was also a Japan Fashion Week guest this season, but he has been a fixture of the Tokyo show circuit for years. He was fairly happy with the season in Tokyo but felt there was a certain lack of energy — attributable to the global economic situation more than anything Japan-specific.
Hadar particularly liked the G.V.G.V. and Facetasm shows and found some promising young talent — particularly in accessories — at the RoomsLink trade fair held concurrently with the shows.
His budget for Japanese brands was in line with that of last season, he said, adding that the strength of the yen didn’t affect his buying decisions. The retailer said his customer is willing to shell out more for a newer brand they are less familiar with and that gives his store a certain cachet.
“I think my customer really appreciates the Japanese product. They don’t see it everywhere,” he said. “It’s more product in the West. It’s not as design driven [as in Japan].”
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Miyako Sekimoto, fashion director at Matsuya department store, said she was rather pleased with the shows she saw and could see evidence of both creative talent and business potential.
“The shows were much more commercial than last season. At the same time, the shows weren’t boring,” she said, adding that her spring budget for Japan designers is in line with that of last year.
She said that Japanese brands the store carries, including Mint Designs and men’s label Kolor, which does not show in Tokyo, are resonating with customers, as they are a cheaper alternative to imported apparel from Europe.
“People don’t spend so much money on clothes, but they like to get something new…so they can feel fresh,” she said.
Kazuyoshi Minamimagoe, senior creative director at Beams, said he thought the men’s fashion was particularly strong, especially from White Mountaineering, Yoshio Kubo and Facetasm. But he also gave a nod to women’s brands like Mikio Sakabe and Written Afterwards, which tap into distinctive Japanese youth culture.
“Until now, there have been a lot of men’s brands that seem like they’ve come right off the street and done a show, and they were very easy to handle and sell within our selection. There were fewer women’s brands that had the ‘realness’ that we wanted, but [this time] I think I saw some brands that we could carry,” he said.
Maggie Schuler, apparel director at Anthropologie, also came to Tokyo as a Japan Fashion Week guest. She said she was taken with Coohem, a line of textural knits.
“We were intrigued by the opportunity to delve deeper into Japanese fashion, to a level previously less accessible to us, by meeting local independent designers and artists and learning how they may be influenced by their country’s’ artisan history,” she said.
This season, the Tokyo shows appeared to gain some international traction. Organizers said that 153 foreign buyers registered for the shows this season, up from 121 in March and 88 last October. Japan Fashion Week only tracks buyer registrations, so it is still not clear how many of them actually made the trip here.
The Tokyo shows took place against a backdrop of strained political relations between Japan and China, its largest trading partner. A territorial dispute over a small chain of islands has prompted Chinese protests and reported boycotts of Japanese products during the past month, and it was not certain how the conflict would play out during Japan Fashion Week. As reported, a group of buyers from ShanghaiMart canceled their trip to the Tokyo shows.
Of the registered buyers, who may or may not have attended the shows, 51 hailed from China and 16 from Hong Kong, according to figures from the organizers. Still, anecdotal evidence indicates that they were light on the ground. In past seasons, it was common to hear a smattering of Chinese and Korean in the Tokyo show venues. That linguistic diversity was absent this time.
Masahiko Miyake, chairman of the Japan Fashion Week Organization, said he was pleased to see more buyers and journalists attend the shows but also acknowledged the Chinese situation.
“Though the total number of foreign press and buyers was increased, it was true that more than 10 Chinese people canceled their visit in fashion week,” he said. “That was maybe influenced by the political problem.”