This season Tokyo proved that you don’t have to work in the industry to enjoy fashion week. Thanks to a number of public events linked to Japan Fashion Week at venues around the city, Tokyo became a treasure hunt for followers of fashion—no invitation necessary.
First there was Happy Together, a collaboration with the city’s most popular multi-label boutiques. Shoppers who found themselves at Beams, United Arrows and other independent hot spots during fashion week could pick up a limited edition tote bag designed by Soichiro Shimizu. For every purchase carried away in the colorful bag, the project promised to donate ¥5 to Care International Japan. “We did the Happy Together project because, at least during JFW, we wanted to bring a greater fashion atmosphere and fashion mood to Tokyo,” explained JFW spokeswoman Kyoko Kawashima.
Not to be outdone, stately department store Takashimaya Shinjuku reprised its role as grand central for JFW tie-in campaigns. Throughout the week, videos streaming footage of the catwalk shows could be found around the store while the 8th floor “New Creators Zone” included mini-boutiques of Tokyo Collection brands. Customers who invested more than ¥21,000 (a little over $200) in these up-and-coming labels were entered for a chance to win a copy of the official autumn/winter ’09-’10 DVD as well as other limited edition brand goods.
Harajuku’s LaForet, meanwhile, featured displays calling attention to the JFW brands available in store and also hosted several shows within its walls. The 6th floor LaForet Museum Harajuku event space was the venue of choice for Theater Products, Hisui and Fur Fur during business hours. The line to get in for the shows snaked up several flights of the central staircase, making the trendsetting editors, buyers and stylists awaiting admission their own kind of fashion show.
Casual shoppers at the store also had the opportunity to join the line for the public second show of the Shinmai Creator’s Project. New this season, the Shinmai Creator’s Project is a sponsorship program for young designers, culminating in a joint show and exhibition at JFW. Five hundred people—many of them fashion students—packed into the event hall at Tokyo Midtown.
“Fashion weeks are usually B to B events, for buyers and press. However JFW is not only B to B, we want as many B to C events as we can,” explained Kawashima. “We would like to make Tokyo into a more stylish and fun city—it is one of our visions.”
Industry aside, Tokyo’s DIY fashion scene is also hitting its stride. Fragment, a quarterly bazaar-style fair just celebrated its one-year anniversary this March. What began as an experiment has grown into a quarterly event taking place at Klein Dytham Architecture’s famous multi-media space Super Deluxe. Several hundred design-minded Tokyoites showed up for the most recent edition, which featured everything from delicate accessories from Lissita to hand-screened t-shirts by Chief&Mischief.
Fragment is organized by Tokyo Made, an online shop dedicated to showcasing independent, international designers working in Tokyo. Co-founder Masao Tamaoki described Fragment as a space for designers and their customers to get to know each other: “We created Tokyo Made as a place to sell, but we created Fragment for people to meet and exchange information,” he said, adding: “This network is important.”
From the grassroots level to the higher powers, Tokyo fashion industry players are increasingly chipping away at the old boundaries that separate the professional fashionista from the conventional consumers. And the timing couldn’t be better: for those fashion followers who have found themselves too often forlornly window-shopping (thanks to penny-pinching measures), there is something new to be gained from a shopping experience that isn’t budget breaking.
—Rebecca Milner, researcher CScout Japan