FASHION WEEK TOKYO

Fashion Week Tokyo powers ahead

Mercedes-Benz seems to be working wonders for FWT

by Misha Janette

Special To The Japan Times

From start to finish, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tokyo’s 2013 spring/summer collections hit new heights, literally, as the catwalk parades were staged way up in the event’s new home at the Hikarie shopping tower in city center Shibuya.

It’s now seven years since the inaugural weeklong string of shows began in Tokyo, aiming for the same success as the biannual fashion weeks in New York, Milan and Paris. But here, the twice-yearly fests have failed to seep into the local, let alone the national, consciousness.

Making things worse is the unfortunate, undeserved bad rep the event suffers due to some people wrongly associating it in some way with the chaotic season-long string of random shows called the Tokyo Collections that started in 1985.

But if the huge posters and campaigns at the fancy Hikarie mall before and during the Oct. 13-20 event are anything to go by, a carefully targeted slice of the population will already be better clued in to FWT’s existence — and the trend will hopefully pick up pace as the spring/summer and autumn/winter seasons roll on.

FWT’s re-homing to its new prominent site follows, and may stem from, a major coup three seasons ago when the global sports, fashion and media company IMG brought on board sponsorship, of an undisclosed amount, from Mercedes-Benz, which also supports other major global fashion weeks, including New York’s. Along with the German car-maker, FWT is now also sponsored by the American makeup brand Maybelline and logistics giant DHL — with the latter also presenting a design award to upcoming talent Atsushi Nakashima in a ceremony on Oct 19.

Both the money and the know-how brought to FWT by these global brands seems to be quietly working wonders. In fact, the change is remarkable following a confused period when the event’s existence was sometimes in doubt as the Japanese government tightened its financial screw and it floundered increasingly both at home and on the fashion world’s stage.

In contrast, there was plenty to write home about this season, including the return of Toshikazu Iawaya to Dresscamp, the brand he left four years ago to pursue personal projects — only to see it languish buzz-wise. What a coup that was for Japanese fashion, seeing the return of a powerhouse to one of its strongest brands.

FWT also pulled in one of the world’s most influential street-style photographers and bloggers, Tommy Ton, who crossed the Pacific to chronicle and share his favorite shows and aspects of Tokyo in a photo diary on the online fashion portal Style.com.

The website, once helmed by Vogue U.S., is widely considered the last online word on fashion, and for the first time ever it showed full rolls of photos taken by the famed Canadian at Tokyo’s shows, along with daily reports on the goings-on. (Disclosure: This writer was tasked to cover FWT for Style.com.)

With that breakthrough inclusion of Tokyo in fashion reportage alongside Paris, New York, Milan and London, it may appear to be on the way to becoming the world’s fifth-most important fashion week.

Before it is recognized as any such thing, though, it will have to contend with severe competition from South Korea. In fact, Korean brands had a huge presence at FWT this time, with a large dedicated space at a sister venue in Shibuya holding the RoomsLINK showrooms. There, among many delights, a show was staged by Seoul-based Fleamadonna, one of Korea’s most charming and unique brands.

Not only that, but it may give pause to those envisioning Tokyo up there with fashion’s top global capitals to realize that FWT’s biggest event came courtesy not of a Japanese brand but an American one — the American Apparel show and soiree — which brought out a herd of celebrities, models and even overseas party personalities for the most raucous bash any Tokyo fashion week has ever seen.

When all is said and done, it becomes increasingly clear that the only way to judge a fashion week is on the quality of its shows. At FWT just ended, there was a decrease in the number of shows overall, to 35, from either of the previous two Mercedes-Benz seasons — but an argument can be made that the brands were better vetted to represent Japan’s creative offering globally.

So, as ever, it’s up to the designers to show what magic they can pull out of their hats — and wow the world.

Misha Janette is a graduate of Bunka Fashion College in Tokyo who writes for Vogue Girl, Numero Tokyo, The Guardian, Wallpaper and the JT. As a stylist, she has worked with Nicki Minaj. She hosts “Kawaii International” on NHK World and blogs about the cutting-edge side of Japanese fashion at www.TokyoFashionDiaries.com. She launched Plumb, her high-fashion wig line, this year.