• Kyodo

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The Japan Fashion Week Organization, which sponsors the Tokyo Collection, the nation’s biggest fashion event, gave a government grant last year to a label owned by a member of its selection committee, sources said Saturday.

The apparent conflict of interest is likely to draw fire since the event involves joint public- and private-sector efforts to bolster the Japanese fashion industry’s competitiveness and growth.

The JFW’s committee annually selects 10 fashion brands that each receive ¥2 million in grants from the JFW and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry to cover the production costs for fashion shows held in October and March. The brands are also exempt from charges for using the event venues.

METI allocates about ¥100 million to the project each year.

The nine-member committee, which comprises journalists and clothes buyers, was set up within the JFW last April. The panel selected the brands for the fiscal 2011 collection in July. One of the brands chosen, Theater Products, has a 37-year-old female board member on the JFW panel.

“We asked her to take part in the committee in her capacity as director of a nonprofit organization, which is unrelated to the brand,” a JFW official said.

The JFW said there was nothing suspicious about the grant selection process because it was done “through discussion by the committee and the brand was more than capable” of qualifying for the grant. METI also said the selection process was fair, but others expressed doubts.

“I don’t know how the committee can reject a brand owned by one of its members,” said Yoko Otsuka, chairman of the Council of Fashion Designers, Tokyo, a body set up by major domestic fashion designers. “They totally lack awareness that they are using taxpayers’ money.”

The panel member in question said she never pushed for her brand in the selection process, but will address the matter if it escalates. “I should reflect deeply (about the grant) if it is called into question,” she said.

The Tokyo Collection started 25 years ago and is one of the world’s biggest fashion shows after Paris, Milan, London and New York. In the October event, 44 brands took part in the show.

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