TOKYO — Japan’s most major fashion event wrapped on Saturday after six days of runway shows, installations and exhibitions. And while the season brought with it many newcomers with fresh ideas — and brought back familiar, popular brands as well — many buyers and journalists lamented the subdued atmosphere.
For the first time in five seasons, Amazon, the headlining sponsor of Tokyo Fashion Week, didn’t hold its popular At Tokyo events. The program aimed to bring designers and brands that wouldn’t normally show on Tokyo runways to a local audience. Past participants of At Tokyo include Sacai, Undercover, Anrealage and N.Hoolywood. And now that attendees have grown accustomed to the spectacle, there was an overall feeling that something was missing from this season.
“This season, partly because there was no At Tokyo, I felt there wasn’t as much energy, but I think that’s also just the basic state of things,” said Yuji Yamazaki, director of Beams.
Yoshimi Nagao, a buyer for Takashimaya, echoed Yamazaki’s opinion, saying, “Since At Tokyo is no longer happening, I’m a little worried about how the popularity or newsworthiness of Tokyo Fashion Week will progress in the future.”
The lack of the At Tokyo program also led attendees to speculate on whether Amazon would continue to sponsor fashion week from next season. The company attempted to put the rumors to rest through an official statement.
“Amazon Fashion intends to continue supporting the fashion and design community through Tokyo Fashion Week. We don’t disclose details of the sponsorship,” it said, going on to reveal that At Tokyo will soon be relaunched in a new format, separate from fashion week. “We continue to receive positive feedback regarding the Amazon Fashion At Tokyo program and appreciate all of the support and collaboration we’ve received. At Tokyo is going ‘back to the street,’ where the Tokyo fashion scene was born. Stay tuned for the all new Amazon Fashion At Tokyo coming soon.”
But despite a slight damper in the atmosphere of the festivities — as well as fewer well-known, trendsetting brands — there were still bright spots during the week.
“I think one positive point this season was that brands like Anrealage, Cinoh, Hyke and The Reracs presented strong men’s offerings in their shows. I think it’s powerful for brands that are successful on the sales side to push their men’s collections,” Yamazaki said. “Another brand I thought was good was Anei. The styling and the atmosphere was great, and the Salomon shoes also got a good response. It’s a brand that I would like to continue to watch from now on.”
Nagao said her favorite presentation of the week was from Noma T.D., which showed a short film directed by Rinko Kawauchi, with music by Hiroshi Fujiwara.
“It didn’t do a runway show, but the special movie showed the brand’s world view and their sense of art, while the balance between that and the original textiles and their sense of fashion style felt very fresh and now, which personally I found very exciting. It’s a brand that I want to see gain recognition by the women of Tokyo as well,” Nagao said.
Kayako Takagaki, managing director of Acces, which owns a small chain of multibrand stores called Parigot, cited Cinoh, one of the winners of the latest Tokyo Fashion Award, as a brand that she felt positive about.
“Even while it was their first show, both the men’s and women’s collections were good, and judging from the large number of people who attended I think people have high hopes for the brand,” she said.
Kotoha Yokozawa was another young designer who showed promise. As of Friday evening, Kazuyoshi Minamimagoe, senior creative director for Beams, said the brand was his favorite of the season so far.
“She has a very original style. It’s both girlie and nostalgic — she makes clothes in a way that was common some decades ago, but at this moment it looks very original,” he said. “It’s something that no one else is doing at the moment.”
Buyers from both Beams and Takashimaya said rather than continuing to add many new brands to their stores’ mix each season, they prefer to work with fewer labels over a longer time period, mentoring and nurturing young designers to help them build successful businesses. Still, Yamazaki said he thinks Anei is a strong contender for Beams to work with in the future, while Nagao said she’ll start buying Yohei Ohno from fall. While the young designer didn’t participate in fashion week this season, he was chosen as a finalist for the latest International Woolmark Prize, and in 2017 he was one of the winners of the Tokyo Fashion Award.
“We are also planning collaboration items with Noma, and with a unisex perspective that until now department stores haven’t been able to do, we would like to acquire new customers and respond to new needs,” Nagao said.
Takagaki said she expects Acces’s budget for Tokyo brands to increase by about 20 to 30 percent with the coming fall season, and that she will be adding Ujoh into her selection for the first time.
“We’ve been getting offers from them for a while, but we decided to start from this season both because they started doing men’s but also because it was a good collection,” she said.
Highlights among Tokyo’s fall collections included:
- Hyke’s new take on military classics, reimagined with oversize silhouettes cut from beautiful textiles of the highest quality.
- The Reracs’ modern basics in neutral hues, which combined precise tailoring with chic yet easy silhouettes, making them perfect for urbanites looking to combine style with comfort.
- Mistergentleman’s proportion play that combined retro suits with cropped outerwear, and turned sweaters and jackets into smock-like collars.
- Cinoh’s relaxed elegance and playful mix of materials, which saw plush leopard-print pantsuits and satin apron dresses share the runway with grunge-esque plaid jackets and skirts trimmed in long fringe.
- Malamute’s beautifully textured knits, relaxed trousers, quilted outerwear, and sheer, pleated skirts, all of which came together to form a collection rich in variety that nevertheless felt cohesive.