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The show will go online

At the time of writing, Rakuten Fashion Week Tokyo is still going ahead from Oct. 12 through 18. Everything is tentative these days, especially since March’s fashion week was pulled, with only select shows going ahead online. Of course, this was almost universally seen as the right move, and it was the loss of trade shows that hurt brands fiscally, as that is where most orders are actually placed.

Catwalk: Edgy youth brand Neglect Adult Patients kicked off Spring/Summer 2021 with a formal fashion show at Shibuya Parco, sans live audience. | NEGLECT ADULT PATIENTS
Catwalk: Edgy youth brand Neglect Adult Patients kicked off Spring/Summer 2021 with a formal fashion show at Shibuya Parco, sans live audience. | NEGLECT ADULT PATIENTS

This time, though, the organizing body, Japan Fashion Week Organization, is well-prepared, with all manner of guidelines, many of which are already second nature to most Tokyoites by now. And yes, there will be invited audiences, press and photographers in attendance. But seating will be sparse, and the emphasis is still on digital distribution through the official homepage, and streaming on YouTube and the Tokyo Fashion Film website.

Still, everyone with a vested interest in the week could take more active measures to build a more engaged audience, both domestically and abroad.

Ahead of the official schedule, edgy youth brand Neglect Adult Patients was the first Japanese brand to reveal its collection for Spring/Summer 2021 via a formal fashion show held on the 10th-floor rooftop of Shibuya Parco.

Titled “Conservative Collection,” the output was anything but, harking back to the rebellious gyaru (gal) golden years of the late ’90s and early 2000s Shibuya with plaid everywhere, stacked loose stocks and allusions to Japanese school uniforms.

It was also audience-less, bar a smattering of journalists and a production team. Viewers could watch the livestream online, where the influencer-studded line-up of models ensured engagement. It’s a lesson for brands on the official schedule: If you want an engaged audience, borrow someone else’s.

Rakuten Fashion Week Tokyo: bit.ly/rakuten-ss2021

Virtual vogue: Now you can dress up your Animal Crossing: New Horizons avatar with digital high fashion from big-name Japanese and international fashion brands. | MCM, ATSUMARE DOBUTSU NO MORI © NINTENDO
Virtual vogue: Now you can dress up your Animal Crossing: New Horizons avatar with digital high fashion from big-name Japanese and international fashion brands. | MCM, ATSUMARE DOBUTSU NO MORI © NINTENDO

Virtually in vogue

Fashion runway’s biggest challenger right now came out of left field in the form of Nintendo’s 2020 smash hit Atsumare Dobutsu no Mori (Animal Crossing: New Horizons) on the Switch.

Over the summer, Japanese fashion brands such as Non Tokyo and Adeam, as well as international labels like Marc Jacobs and Valentino, have put their new collections in the game for users’ avatars to wear.

Fashion in video games is nothing new, and selling real-life clothes based on video game designs is de rigueur. The difference now is that compared to the user base for game consoles in the past, the audience for Switch as a whole, and Animal Crossing in particular, is rather more gender-balanced, making for a valuable in-game women’s fashion audience.

Men’s fashion is not neglected entirely though: MCM has looks inspired by its fall menswear collection currently available for those who want to look chic on their island paradise.

‘Rebelling’ in rough times

Look bad, do good: Wacko Maria is celebrating 15 years with a collection that references Tokyo street trends of yore. | WACKO MARIA

Spare a thought for Japan’s bad boys and girls currently deprived of an important outlet of expression.

Not only has the ongoing COVID-19 situation all but destroyed important youth gathering points including music venues and clubs, but with loitering even more frowned upon the all-important street scene has suffered.

But where does that leave relatively responsible youth who at least want to look bad? As with Neglect Adult Patients, most of the rebellion is an ironic nod to middle fingers of yore.

Wacko Maria, one of the edgiest faces in Japanese streetwear, has marked 15 years in the trade with a capsule collection on sale now that is like a greatest hits of Tokyo street culture, capturing ’60s amekaji (American casual) looks popular in Ueno and hints of ’80s bōsōzoku (biker gang), accentuated with cannabis leaves — classic trends that were first popular before the target audience was even born.

Wacko Maria: wackomaria.co.jp

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