NEW FACES AT JFW

Two venues showcase upcoming talents from home and beyond

by Misha Janette

Japan Fashion Week is always kind to budding creators, and that was exemplified this time with two major events — the three-day Rooms tradeshow and the installation “New Designers Met in Europe,” which both showcased upcoming brands and new talent.

Biannual fashion industry trade fair Rooms was held in tandem with JFW for the first time since its inception 15 seasons ago. Billing itself as “The most creative exhibition in Japan,” Rooms featured more than 280 labels and a plethora of innovative artistic delights.

Three-time veterans Yokang brought their colorful hand-dyed pieces in traditional patterns from Okinawa, with its PR rep Saki, claiming, “It’s a great opportunity to show outside of Okinawa, so we participate in Rooms every year now.”

Exhibitors use various gimmicks to attract attention, and wooden accessories brand T.L.C. turned their stall into a house of horticulture, with bracelets and necklaces laid on pots of exotic plants.

While the majority of brands are homegrown, Rooms hosts a number of international participators as well. Designer Andrea Katz of “AkoNYC” says she finds not the brands themselves, but the attendees to be the most inspiring.

“Everyone is dressed so well; their clothes are unique and so interesting. Not like home at all!” said the designer.

Meanwhile, over at Tokyo Midtown’s 21-21 Design Site gallery space, the “New Designers Met in Europe” exhibition created a buzz with its innovative collections from six new brands. The 11 designers there, each a graduate of a renowned foreign fashion academy, come from countries as varied as their design ethos, whether Japan, Germany or Israel.

Among them, Mikiko Sakabe and Shueh Jen-Fang’s Mikiosakabe exhibited an ironic display of a doll factory, with sickeningly cute and sparkle-eyed mannequins wearing crisp women’s “career suits” and twirling about on turntables.

Stereotypes by Demna Gvasalia and Helena Lumelsky looked like a locker room at an underworld laboratory where an experiment went terribly wrong. Opening up each locker revealed creepy life-like mannequins wearing costumes corresponding to daily stereotypes — a concept both thought-provoking and original.

On Sunday afternoon, the pieces were brought out of the gallery and put onto real models for a show in the main hall in Midtown. Shoppers stopped in their tracks to catch a glimpse of the out-of-this-world pieces on display, with designer Taro Horiuchi getting kudos for his men’s line, which flowed beautifully when worn, especially with the detail found in all the pleats and folds.

JFW’s efforts to showcase young talent are commendable, and it’s to be hoped they will continue in future seasons.