If you noticed a few more model-types, street-style photographers and fashionistas lingering around Shibuya last week, then you weren’t imagining things: Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tokyo, which was held March 17-22, once again brought the hautest of the haute out of the woodwork. The biannual event showcased 45 brands covering a variety of fashion from Japan and beyond, mostly centered around the Hikarie shopping venue.

The organizers of the event haven’t said they vet brands based on style or target, so perhaps it was by pure serendipity that there was a great mix of both mainstream and subculture designs representing Tokyo’s multi-faceted fashion landscape. The collections showcased items that featured everything from European glamour to kimono, each complemented by kawaii (cute) or punk street styles. A record number of international brands made appearances on the runway, making for an incredibly well-rounded week, despite the event losing some of the country’s biggest brands — Christian Dada, G.V.G.V. and Anrealage — to later showings or European fashion weeks.

One of the highlights was a special show by New York City-based designer Diane Von Furstenberg, who assembled celebrities and supermodels for a large-scale production. Supermodel Ai Tominaga made a rare appearance on the catwalk, with up-and-coming superstar Mona Matsuoka fresh off the Chanel runway in Paris joining her. Celebrities have never played a huge part in Fashion Week Tokyo, but model/actress Kiko Mizuhara twirled down a runway at the Sretsis show this season, while actress Risa Naka offered her support from the front row.

Overall, more than 140,000 people attended events during the week, including related side activities that targeted industry insiders or regular consumers alike. Tokyo’s fashion scene is unique in that consumers are mostly middle class without a huge disparity. This offers an incredible opportunity to drive massive interest from the local population that most cities can only dream of. Although it hasn’t really been advertised as such, the Tokyo fashion shows are some of the most open to casual fans than in any other city worldwide. All one must do is show up early enough to get a spot in the “standing” line, or apply to a number of various raffles provided by most major fashion publications.

“I went to my very first fashion show last week, and only because I heard about it at the last minute,” said a young woman at an informal discussion panel that was held after Fashion Week Tokyo drew to a close. “I wish they would advertise it a little better, and make it even easier for more people to get in.”

Insiders will argue that Paris and New York are completely closed to regular folk, but the same people wouldn’t wish to discourage a wider audience. “There definitely should be more local awareness, at least in the hubs like Shibuya and Harajuku,” said Kazuyoshi Minamimagoe, creative director of fashion conglomerate Beams.

By now, Fashion Week Tokyo has ironed out most kinks and the designers themselves seem to be doing their part. Next is to bring the rest of Tokyo into the fold, and perhaps upping the budget to invite more international press from prestigious publications to keep it in the international eye.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.