Just as Tokyo is synonymous with manga, sushi and cute robotic playmates, so has fashion been a reigning symbol of the city’s creative prowess.

Showcasing the runway presentations for 37 high-fashion brands over six days was last week’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tokyo. Held primarily in Shibuya’s glitzy Hikarie complex, fashion shows brought out journalists, influential bloggers, buyers and some famous faces to see what designers have in store for the 2014 spring/summer season.

Fashion Week Tokyo has a unique task in conquering two massive sides of one coin: one is to bring local fashion to the public at large with casual, marketable clothing; the other is to establish a certain cachet within the global fashion industry by perpetuating the innovative image that put Japan on the map way back in the ’80s.

Kicking off the festivities was a special show by Italian knitwear brand Missoni, which re-presented the 2014 spring/summer collection it first unveiled during Milan Fashion Week in September. “We were one of the first imported brands in Japan, and we’ve seen four generations of my family in that time,” current head designer Angela Missoni said after the show.

The Missoni show was organized in an attempt to give the event a stronger international flavor, but organizers couldn’t have been more happy with where things went from there. The biggest news of the week occurred on Oct. 18 when heavy metal rockers Kiss made a surprise guest appearance at Christian Dada‘s show.

Scheduled to play a concert in Tokyo in a week that coincided with the spring/summer collections, the band worked behind the scenes to collaborate with an up-and-coming designer during its visit. The national media was sent into a frenzy when they were photographed wearing Dada-designed jackets backstage, the first time they’ve ever worn something by a brand other than their stage costumes.

Also ostensibly brought in to attract a wider audience, former AKB48 member Tomomi Itano was a guest of honor at the ribbon cutting ceremony. Clothed in a Missoni dress, her appearance highlighted the preferential treatment foreign labels often get, overlooking local designers in an attempt to give the general public what it expects.

At the other end of the style spectrum, the capital seems to have retained its image as a powerhouse of unique fashion creativity and yet Fashion Week Tokyo is looked down on when compared against shows held in New York, London, Milan and Paris.

Editors from high-fashion publications usually eschew the “second-tier” fashion weeks, but a few were flown in on Tokyo’s dime to see the shows and hopefully leave impressed enough to offer good words to their discernible readers. W and FashionMag.com could be seen alongside runways, as were some of the world’s most influential social media juggernauts from Asia and the West.

Fashion blogger Susanna Lau of Stylebubble summed it up succinctly on her blog.

“So much of what’s brilliant about Tokyo’s fashion scene isn’t to be found in a sponsor-ridden fashion show venue but walking around on the streets,” she wrote.

So the Tokyo fashion industry is supposed to be both cool and underground, but also big and profitable. It’s a massive task that simply can’t be solved in one stylish week.

Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tokyo: Invisible touch
Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tokyo: No longer an outsider
Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tokyo: Walking the line

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