Last season’s Japan Fashion Week (JFW) was held before the New York Fashion Week, which is traditionally the first event on the annual international catwalk circuit. But this time, Tokyo reverted to its regular slot after the Paris Collections that have since time immemorial wrapped up the industry’s biannual seasons.

Staged mostly in large tents erected in Nihonbashi, across from the Mitsukoshi department store, the event incorporated some 39 shows. With a handful of foreign journalists visiting courtesy of the government-related Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), designers this year unusually had the benefit of the judgment of experienced critics, who delivered largely positive write-ups.

In particular, the visiting style writers observed that the menswear shows, with their tightly fitted tailoring and clever riffs on military and classic looks, were stronger than most of the collections for women.

They also pointed out that polished, commercial collections like those staged by G.V.G.V. and Ritsuko Shirahama were less likely to draw interest from overseas than the wacky, cutesy efforts from the likes of mercibeaucoup, Ne-Net and mintdesigns.

Arguably the most positive development for JFW is the appointment of Nobuyuki Ota, president of Issey Miyake Inc., as its public relations director. Ota realizes that, in the present reality, JFW can only ever serve as a training ground for the most talented young designers, and he encourages Japan-based creators to eventually show their collections overseas. “I would like to nurture young talent,” he says. “Here [in Tokyo] it’s very important to incubate talent. We have to push young designers onto the international market.”

There is certainly plenty of talent among Tokyo’s sartorial innovators; marketing it internationally, however, is not an easy task. But with Nobuyuki Ota and JETRO lending their clout to JFW’s PR operation, perhaps these exciting young designers’ visions will not forever remain confined to their homeland’s shores.

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