Tokyo Fashion Week shines a light on homegrown talent


After successive seasons of canceled shows and virtual presentations, a largely in-person Tokyo Fashion Week returned in a blur of technicolor palettes, digital innovation and sculptural runway creations.

With 54 brands in attendance and 30 physical showcases, the event’s Autumn-Winter 2022 edition marked an optimistic return to form — and the highest number of participants since the pandemic struck.

Designer Tomo Koizumi, whose extravagant creations went viral after his 2019 New York Fashion Week show — and, more recently, at the Summer Olympics Opening Ceremony — showed in his home country, with Japanese celebrities among those modeling his creations.

Staging his intimate “red carpet”-themed show at Tokyo’s Edition Hotel, Koizumi expanded on his repertoire of sculptural ballgowns with a ruffled suit, worn by transgender model and actor Satsuki Nakayama, and a red jumpsuit with a gigantic cream skirt, modeled by actor and former pop star Yuko Oshima.

“It was hard to make and achieve,” Koizumi said of his collection, adding that he believed it could bring “new opportunities” and that he hoped to dress more Japanese stars in the future.

Tomo Koizumi was supported by Rakuten Fashion Week Tokyo's "by R" initative, which supports Japanese fashion brands. "I think having your own signature style is more important than chasing trends," he said, of young designers. "You should try to make trends."

Tomo Koizumi was supported by Rakuten Fashion Week Tokyo’s “by R” initative, which supports Japanese fashion brands. “I think having your own signature style is more important than chasing trends,” he said, of young designers. “You should try to make trends.” Credit: Courtesy Tomo Koizumi

Some designers used the welcome return of larger audiences to show their creations in new and unexpected ways. Punk-inspired label Kidill put on a live concert (pictured on top), dressing indie band Psysalia Hito in hyper-saturated colored dresses and tartan. Meanwhile Yoshio Kubo, in what was dubbed as an “NFT presentation” by organizers, presented his sculptural works as an exhibition, with models wearing monochrome creations that ballooned out into extravagant inflated gowns. The pieces were inspired by digital fashion, Kubo told CNN, where possibilities are endless. “I used air to make (the pieces) big. When (attendees) looked at the collection, they thought the clothes were really unreal.”

Kidill's creations were worn by Japanese rock band Psysalia Hito who performed live at their show, with the band's guitarist seen wearing the dress above.

Kidill’s creations were worn by Japanese rock band Psysalia Hito who performed live at their show, with the band’s guitarist seen wearing the dress above. Credit: Courtesy Kidill

Yoshio Kubo, who founded his label in 2004, drew inspiration from traditional Japanese kites this season as well as digital fashion.

Yoshio Kubo, who founded his label in 2004, drew inspiration from traditional Japanese kites this season as well as digital fashion. Credit: Courtesy Yoshio Kubo

Covid-19 still loomed over the event, with attendees required to wear masks and capacity limited to between 200 and 250 people per show — less than a third of pre-pandemic levels. But Kaoru Imajo, one of the directors of Japan Fashion Week Organization (which oversees the event), said organizers were “very happy” with the turnout, despite the absence of more overseas buyers and international editors.

“We have wonderful designers that are coming up and international designers are doing shows,” Imajo said over video call. “But we wish that we could have had more guests.”

Supporting designers

While Covid-19 has posed significant challenges, the event’s organizers have also benefited from travel restrictions. Some of the more established local brands, who normally show overseas, chose to participate in Tokyo this year.

The event also gave emerging designers, like Shun Ishizawa, a chance to shine. Ishizawa, who debuted his eponymous label during the event, said the platform allowed him to “share my brand and worldview with more people,” adding that Hokkaido, where he’s based, has a smaller fashion network than Tokyo. His collection, inspired by the rebellious “yankii” subculture of the 1980s, featured wide-legged trousers, as well as traditional Japanese iconography, like denim jackets printed with daruma dolls.

Cropped denim jackets were paired with wide-legged trousers -- a style favored by the subculture. Ishizawa said the pursuit of the "masculine" and "elegance" was central to his brand.

Cropped denim jackets were paired with wide-legged trousers — a style favored by the subculture. Ishizawa said the pursuit of the “masculine” and “elegance” was central to his brand. Credit: Courtesy Maison Shun Ishizawa

Daruma appear on a denim jacket by Maison Shun Ishizawa.

Daruma appear on a denim jacket by Maison Shun Ishizawa. Credit: Courtesy Maison Shun Ishizawa

While Japanese fashion has a strong global reputation, thanks to the likes of Comme des Garçons, Yohji Yamamoto and Issey Miyake, younger and less established brands are still being overlooked internationally, said Imajo, the director. He believes the platform provides necessary exposure, but says more can be done within the industry to help country’s talent keep pace with young Korean and Chinese designers who, he believes, are “getting stronger.”

This may be partly down to language barriers, he added, saying that Japanese designers are comparatively “not very good at speaking English” and could, as a result, be “shy,” leading to communication issues with journalists and buyers. “I think Japanese designers have more potential, but they (can’t) show it,” he said.

Tokyo Fashion Award-winning designer Harunobu Murata, whose modern approach to womenswear this season was exemplified by relaxed suit tailoring and reinterpreted cloche hats, also sees a need to nail down “the character of Japanese designers.” It’s a goal that events like Tokyo Fashion Week are central to achieving, he added. “We need to find out the right value of a Japanese designer, what kind of value we can give to the international buyers,” he said in a video call.

“We need to define that. We need to have a clear message (about) what we are and what we’re presenting — what only we can do from Japan,” he said.

Below are some of the trends to emerge from the runways.

Deconstructed garments

Prominent cutouts feature in this look by Seivson.

Prominent cutouts feature in this look by Seivson. Credit: Courtesy Seivson

Pillings reimagined knitwear in their Autumn Winter collection.

Pillings reimagined knitwear in their Autumn Winter collection. Credit: Courtesy Pillings

Deconstruction was a prominent trend at Tokyo Fashion Week, with brands ripping up and patchworking together fabrics, creating negative spaces with prominent cut-outs. Both toile and gray versions of a cut-out dress by Taiwanese brand Seivson (above, left) made an appearance on the runway. Pillings pushed the boundaries with knitwear, creating a red oversized sweater, which featured a large cut out and a mix of knitting styles. Nisai’s collection also played with patchworking, with a denim shirt becoming an assembly of different shades and frayed edges.

Gender-fluid menswear

Peien's models appeared in mesh-knitted dresses.

Peien’s models appeared in mesh-knitted dresses. Credit: Courtesy Peien

Yellow flowers adorn this look in Tanaka Daisuke's collection.

Yellow flowers adorn this look in Tanaka Daisuke’s collection. Credit: Courtesy Tanaka Daisuke

Gender-fluid menswear was also seen in many collections, in keeping with wider conversations about masculinity taking place across the fashion industry. Peien presented its male models in mesh-knitted dresses, Kidill dressed Psysalia Hito band members in vibrant, splattered dresses and ribbons while Tanaka Daisuke embraced a softer approach to menswear, sending a model down in a floral-patterned suit.

Relaxed suiting

Base Mark's take on a casual suit.

Base Mark’s take on a casual suit. Credit: Courtesy Base Mark

Koizumi's ruffled take.

Koizumi’s ruffled take. Credit: Courtesy Tomo Koizumi

Harunobumurata wanted to create a collection that embraced elegance.

Harunobumurata wanted to create a collection that embraced elegance.

Relaxed suiting was a recurring trend across collections, as designers swapped crisp figure-hugging tailoring for looser silhouettes — perhaps a response to changed attitudes towards workwear that have developed over the pandemic. Designer Harunobu Murata explained he was inspired by the “freeness” of Jacques Henri Lartigue’s photography and wanted to create a collection full of “elegance without being too serious.” Meanwhile Base Mark brought tangerine hues to a casual suit, which featured flowing wide-legged trousers and contrasting shades of blue. Even Koizumi brought his own ruffled spin to the silhouette, creating a loosely-fitted blazer with a striking ruffled lapel detail.

Sculptural sihouettes

Kubo's collection was scanned and sold digitally as NFTs (non-fungible tokens).

Kubo’s collection was scanned and sold digitally as NFTs (non-fungible tokens). Credit: Courtesy Yoshio Kubo

CFCL's tiered black gown.

CFCL’s tiered black gown. Credit: Courtesy CFCL

Some designers moved away from everyday wearable items, instead creating sculptural outfits which would look at home in a museum. Designer Yoshio Kubo’s collection featured gigantic inflatables and this harness frame, which featured functional pinwheels. At CFCL, experimental silhouettes brought a modern look to knitwear as seen with this black gown.

Bright, bold

Non Tokyo styled this voluminous hot pink dress with a mesh balaclava.

Non Tokyo styled this voluminous hot pink dress with a mesh balaclava. Credit: Courtesy Non Tokyo

Pays des Fees' collection featured bright colors and eclectic patterns.

Pays des Fees’ collection featured bright colors and eclectic patterns. Credit: Courtesy Pays de Fees

Punk-inspired looks at the Pays des Fees show.

Punk-inspired looks at the Pays des Fees show.

While last year’s collections were full of darker “anger and sadness,” according to Imajo, this season more designers expressed joy through vibrant creations. Pays des Fees’ show was full of neon bright motifs and patterns, the label’s designer Lim Asafuji said in an e-mail that her design explored “fantasy in the modern age, when electricity and science have made it harder to dream.” NonTokyo presented ensembles full of juxtaposition, such as one involving a pink ball gown, harness and balaclava.





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