Japan Fashion Week kicked off Sunday with a special event aimed at finding new modeling talents in Asia. “The Models 2009” featured a fashion show in which 142 contestants — both professional and amateur models from Japan, China and South Korea — walked the runway in their own self-styled looks. A 21-member panel, including Ai Tominaga and a host of photographers, fashion editors, designers and other industry insiders served as judges. “Photographers look for people they would want to photograph; designers look for people they would want to wear their clothes….As for me, when it came to the male models, I was looking for people that I’d like to be photographed with,” Tominaga joked. Ten winners were chosen, while the Japan subsidiaries of Chanel, Hermès and Giorgio Armani also awarded their own prizes to their runway favorites. “When judging for the Chanel award, I was thinking, ‘If that particular person was wearing Chanel, how would she look?,’” said Richard Collasse, president and representative director at Chanel Japan. Teruo Tsuneda of Mainichi Newspaper, the event’s co-sponsor, noted organizers planned to make this a regular event, and hoped to secure cooperation from Chinese and Korean media in order to better showcase the talents of Asian models to the world.

This story first appeared in the October 20, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

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