TOKYO — WWD Japan and Lumine held a joint forum in Tokyo last month, inviting executives and designers to discuss the future of the fashion industry under the theme of “next generations.” Topics discussed at the conference, which was a hybrid digital and physical event, included everything from sustainability and diversity to brand management and the future of Asian fashion and culture.
The forum opened with an awards ceremony celebrating 16 young talents who were chosen as next-generation leaders based on their impact on society, creativity, cultural importance and potential to drive fashion’s brighter future. One of the awardees was Ryunosuke Okazaki, who was also chosen as a finalist for this year’s LVMH Prize.
The young designer released his debut collection in 2021 and soon garnered attention for his unique, art-centric fashion pieces. Okazaki joined the event online from Paris and shared his thoughts on the similarities between fashion and art, drawing from his borderless approach to his work and his background studying both art and design.
“I think the freedom and mysteriousness of fashion — the fact that you can express yourself by wearing clothes — is very interesting,” Okazaki said.
Haruna Kojima, director of fashion and beauty brand Her Lip To, rose to prominence as a member of the famous Japanese pop group AKB48. She shared her vision and the strategy she followed in order to continue growing her brand even during the COVID-19 pandemic. The brand expanded into the body care and fragrance sectors by promoting self-care and self-love.
With the mission to empower women, media owner and brand entrepreneur Rina Ishii, chief executive officer of Blast, joined a talk session with Kana Bogaki, founder and president of Makuake; Lisa Yamai, president of Snowpeak, and Syunsuke Ishii, partner at Keshiki. The four discussed the topic of brand management and purpose. Blast owns Nagi, a brand for people with periods that encourages discussions regarding the gender gap in Japan. The talk session shared how a business must have a purpose and show its values in order to expand and gather consumers’ empathy.
Gabby Hirata, president and CEO of Diane von Furstenberg, echoed this sentiment in her video chat with Evan Clark, WWD’s deputy managing editor.
“I think eventually our customers tell us what is the future, what is the trend. If we stay in the old way and think we don’t need to worry about diversity, we don’t need to worry about sustainability, I think our customers will tell us by not buying our dresses,” Hirata said. “Transparency of a company, doing the right thing for a company is something that actually customers look at. Customers take that into consideration when they decide [where to shop].”
The executive also touched on her experiences and thoughts as an ambitious young Chinese woman in leadership.
“I’m surprised still after a year and a half in this job how much impact and power this title gives me, and therefore how much responsibility I have,” Hirata said.
Speakers from South Korea, China, Indonesia and Singapore addressed the future of Asian culture and fashion from each of their perspectives. Soonho Coi from South Korea, Black Label’s business development senior director, shared how K-pop and fashion are connected and how visual language is essential in creating a cultural theme. He learned through his career of developing famous K-pop artists, including Bigbang’s G-dragon.
Hong Boming, creative director and CEO of Chinese brand K-Boxing, discussed his business strategy for success in the Chinese market. The luxury, Made in China fashion brand has a history of more than four decades in the Chinese market, and has even showed its collections on the Great Wall.
Dione Song, CEO of Singapore-based brand Love, Bonito, spoke about her experience running a brand that aims to offer women clothing options for all of life’s major events. The brand includes casualwear, workwear, loungewear, maternitywear, and will soon be adding an activewear line. Song said its mission is to empower Asian women by helping them to build up their self confidence.
Four speakers came together to discuss the topic of sustainability and fashion, a key trend worldwide that has also begun to take off in Japan. Designer Kanako Sakai joined Hiroyuki Kondo, president of Mash Holdings; Lumine adviser Mineaki Saito, and Keisuke Maeda, CEO of Wota, for the session. Sakai shared how her brand is working to help traditional artisans in Japan stay in business.
“We’re very conscious of the fact that we’re a Japanese brand. Often when people think of fashion, they think of Western European brands, but as a Japanese brand, we think it’s important to do something that is different,” Sakai said. She went on to mention that many traditional crafts are dying out in Japan, saying that some things that were able to be made last year suddenly can’t be done anymore, and other skills are being carried on by a single factory.
“Too much credit is given to brands, but we wouldn’t exist without artisans,” Sakai said.
Overall, this year’s Next Generations forum brought together more than 1,200 online participants and 100-plus visitors in person. Invitees ranged from company executives to influencers and students.