Unsurprisingly, the escalation of the pandemic across urban populations has taken a regrettably familiar toll on Japan’s department stores. Whereas the closures during Japan’s initial state of emergency in April last year were mandated, this month has prompted a scattering of voluntary closures as department stores take matters into their own hands.
Osaka’s Hankyu Umeda flagship made the decision to close without warning over the weekend of July 31 through Aug. 1, followed by Lumine Est in Shinjuku from Aug. 4, after a rise in infections among building and shop staff. In retail, breaking transmission of a cluster usually means testing staff, ventilating the entire building and then disinfecting every surface in sight, and these stores ought to be applauded for taking quick decisive action.
But the real shock of the month has been that Tokyo’s fashion week, officially titled sponsor-first as Rakuten Fashion Week Tokyo, has abandoned the international fashion calendar for spring/summer, an event that usually falls in late October after Paris, Milan, London and New York. Fashion week will now start Aug. 30.
It’s a sudden move to say the least, and reorients how international buyers will have to approach the week, one that has always been difficult to navigate in terms of orders and delivery. Still, if we are being honest, as with the last two fashion weeks, international buyers and media will be all but barred from attending.
But it would be a mistake to think the week is entirely insular: It is still home to a number of international designers who see the opportunity as the best place to market their work, including California’s Silent Panda by Samuel Taylor and a several rising East Asian designers such as Seivson from Tzu Chin Shen and their collaboration project with Yu Hung Chang called (A)crypsis. To clarify: The runways may be internationally tinged, but given the sudden shift in dates, catching media and buyers off guard, the target audience is presumably domestic.
The organizers clearly see this as a chance to build up a local following, who are actually the largest patrons of the week’s designers. Of course, there are issues with gathering a significant number of Tokyoites at the venues as well, so the event will increase its digital presence by deploying fashion industry and influencers for its Digital Voice Recommendation campaign. Select looks from the runway chosen by tastemakers will be broadcast on social media with commentary to curate the week into easily digestible segments. It’s a shame said commentary is only in Japanese, because an international audience would surely appreciate the guidance when approaching such an eclectic week.
The vast majority of shows will be viewable online, so very little is off limits. As for who to watch?Menswear is where you are spoiled for choice, with White Mountaineering headlining; Yoshio Kubo returning to the week from Milan; and consistent hitters like Diet Butcher and Sise on the docket. The 49-brand lineup is browsable online, so you can plan your viewing now.
Rakuten Fashion Week Tokyo: bit.ly/rfwtokyo-2021
The other entertainment event of the moment is continuing to make waves in the fashion scene as well. The number of Japanese athletes who ascended to the podium has made the Asics Olympic jackets one of the hottest commodities in fashion. The peach-colored official Podium Jackets are one of the best mementoes going, but at ¥47,300 they are also a little bit pricier than you might expect. Still, they are made to order and strictly limited edition. Some sizes are already sold out on pre-order at the time of writing, so they are guaranteed to get collectable fast.
Elsewhere, the new addition of skateboarding to the games, as well as Japan’s own sweep of medals, has put GU’s collaboration with legendary skater Tony Hawk in the spotlight. The fact that Tony Hawk was in Tokyo for the Games helped, too, and there is no doubt that without him as a figurehead for the sport, it would have taken a lot longer to graduate from subculture to mainstage. Those looking to celebrate the past and present can pick up the capsule collection in-store nationwide and online right now. Prices are in line with GU, so you won’t have to part with much more than ¥3,000 yen (including tax) for anything in the lineup, which includes oversized shirts and T-shirts, and bags made with skating in mind.
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