Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tokyo: No longer an outsider

A festival that allows designers to showcase their wares outside of the official venue becomes an accepted part of Fashion Week Tokyo

by Samuel Thomas

Special To The Japan Times

The last day of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tokyo coincided with the Shibuya Fashion Festival, a platform for designers feeling constrained by the limitations of the official venue at Hikarie. As it was, the only condition placed on the participating designers’ means of presentation was that they be open to the public and take place in the leafy surroundings of Miyashita Park in central Shibuya to the accompaniment of the passing Yamanote Line trains.

Currently in its fourth season, the festival has become an accepted part of Fashion Week Tokyo. The lack of scheduling conflicts and the concession of providing an all-important front row seat to tempt well-heeled editors and buyers into attendance have proved key, but have also arguably done more to connect the industry-types who only venture out of their offices in a taxi with the street level of fashion key to Japan’s ongoing soft power.

The methods that participating brands employed to communicate their latest collections were as varied as ever. Melantrick Hemlighet, created by cult designer Yuya, opted for a bakery cafe in collaboration with local bakers Shigekuniya 55. The appropriately patisserie-themed collection was showcased by the waitresses at the cafe and embodied the lifestyle that accompanies the fashion. It also helped give the label excellent coverage, as Yuya’s bread-crowned waitresses were inevitably snapped by photographers wherever they walked.

Designer Mikio Sakabe chose music as his means of delivery, using his muses, the Akihabara idol group Dempagumi.inc, as models for his latest collection while performing their hits for a boisterous audience. In this case, the fashion was secondary to the music and performance, but still managed to communicate the context that surrounded the collection better than any runway show could have hoped to.

For Etw.Vonneguet it was dance, with a collection inspired by the German contemporary dancer Pina Bausch, accompanied appropriately by an interpretive ballet routine that made fantastic use of the urban park setting. The spicy mix of vividly colored silks certainly looked all the more striking in motion as they were catapulted over the concrete of the park.

The potential to deliver truly alternative fashion within a degree of order was exemplified by Taiwanese designer Shueh Jen-Fang’s label Jenny Fax. Her surreal collection was a heady mix of kitsch depicted in kinky PVC, parodies of frilly gothic lolita dresses on dirty-faced models and crude illustrations inspired by iconic shōjo (girls) manga “The Rose of Versailles” drawn by the designer’s own sister! If that proved a little too much to handle, then streetwear labels Discovered and The Dress & Co. by Hideaki Sakaguchi were on hand with a reality check in the form of refined real clothes that anyone could pull off.

The finale of the festival came courtesy of the most influence boutique on the Tokyo fashion scene — Candy. Their show was not to illustrate brands as such, but more the styling and image of the shop itself, highlighting in the process that even in the product-focused consumerist age, the intangible prospect of style is as important as ever.


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