As Toyoko-Fukutoshin trains began breezing beneath shopping-mecca Shibuya last week, for the first time linking Tokyo’s outlying northern satellites and Yokohama to the south without any need for changes, up above it in the glitzy new Hikarie building models bowled down the catwalk for the 2013 autumn/winter showing of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tokyo.
It is four seasons since the German car-maker became FWT’s main sponsor — adding Tokyo to its collection of global fashion weeks that include New York City and Berlin — and in that time it has given the industry segment that relies on these twice-yearly events a real confidence boost. Consequently, where the formerly state-funded showpieces suffered from poorly delivered financial support and a weak image, Mercedes-Benz FWT now graces the upper echelons of the global fashion community.
All in all this season, 37 brands held official runway shows that attracted 22,000 attendees from March 17-23 — although you wouldn’t find internationally renowned labels like Issey Miyake and Yohji Yamamoto among them. Instead, locally established brands such as trendy G.V.G.V. or avant-garde Christian Dada grabbed the limelight, having managed to make ripples within the fashion elite at home and abroad.
Those ripples had clearly extended especially to other Asian fans of Japanese fashion, who were there en masse for the Mastermind Japan presentation that opened the week. With this 2013 spring/summer collection being the label’s very last, 600 fans from Hokkaido to Hong Kong crowded into the hall to see the end of an era for one of the country’s only “luxury” fashion brands.
Are there any contenders in line to take its place?
Well, there were certainly other noteworthy events this season, including a runway show and huge bash for NYC-based Vivienne Tam, who flew to Tokyo to celebrate 15 years in the Japanese market.
Then, the off-site Rooms Link trade show saw many professionals in attendance at the indies’ off-schedule events — which adopted a successful policy of allowing a number of non-pros a standing view.
Similarly, the main FWT itself — which often used to be criticized for not having a more open-door policy in regards to who was allowed to attend shows — this time remedied that with its new Versus Tokyo on the last day.
At that event, standing-room entry was open to all on a first-come first-served basis — and fans lined up for hours to see some fantastic shows by Comme des Garcons’ offshoot line Ganryu and the debut presentation by ex-BAPE collaborator Skate Thing’s new urban-wear brand, C.E.
Like all good things, though, the week wasn’t without its caveats — including February’s bankruptcy of the exceptionally popular brand Phenomenon, which meant a disappointing no-show from it on the runway this season.
During Versus Tokyo, though, the same designer premiered a new collaborative project, named Mr. Gentleman, that is clearly aimed at filling the void.
After that, fans cast their worries aside and donned their fashionable best for a closing party that featured massive DJ acts the Dexpistols, Verbal and Kitsune.
That bash was such a mega-draw that the line of fans who were clamoring to get in astonishingly snaked down several floors of the Hikarie building — evidence, more than ever before, of the latent demand for more similarly exciting fashion weeks in Tokyo.