Tokyo’s Fashion Week Kicks Things Off (with limitations)

Fashion week 2.0

Rakuten Fashion Week Tokyo (RFWT) is scheduled to start tomorrow and will see over 40 brands take part in shows from Oct. 12 through 17. As it stands, there is a roughly 50-50 split between brands holding a live runway show and those opting for fashion films, website presentations or other virtual presentations.

It is pretty much business as usual, save for sparse seating and face coverings. But the JFWO organization committee is keen to stress that comprehensive guidelines are in place for all attended runways, events and tradeshows.

That being said, the plethora of online streaming options means this is the most accessible the usually invitation-only week has ever been. The official homepage is your best bet to stay up-to-date and not miss a show.

While this writer for one would always encourage thinking about runway shows as structured performances, rather than walking catalogs of clothing, it’s undeniable that the business side is of equal — if not primary — importance. The biggest hit to Japanese fashion from the COVID-19 cancellation of March’s fashion week is the fact that, without shows, those collections didn’t get picked up by as many buyers and simply never made it to store racks.

Rakuten FWT has tried to remedy this predicament with a pop-up e-commerce site, available from now until the end of the year. Twelve brands whose shows were canceled in the spring are getting a second chance via the Rakuten-sponsored platform. It is a great chance to pick up underground brands like Bodysong and Balmung, which are hard to find abroad, as well as more domestic commercial successes like DressedUndressed and Discovered.

Even as Japan loosens visa entry restrictions, international buyers are still all but prohibited from attending in person. So Rakuten FWT has also partnered with the buying service JOOR to matchmake buyers with brands. In the absence of a credible international wholesale fashion marketplace, JOOR has rushed in to fill the unexpected vacuum left by the world’s fashion weeks. It has the potential to be a godsend for the usually tricky-to-navigate Tokyo week, even after travel restrictions are a thing of the past.

Sense of Place

Much of the new pacing and norms for Tokyo’s fashion week have been set by Paris and Milan’s fashion weeks earlier this autumn, but what of the Japanese brands who usually exhibit in those fashion capitals? They, too, have gone remote, beaming in their collections from Japan. In the process, many brands utilized their Japanese heritage in a way we haven’t really seen before. Kunihiko Morinaga’s Anrealage filmed its newest collection, which explored home isolation through a series of wearable tents, with Mount Fuji as its backdrop. Meanwhile, Atsushi Nagashima chose Tokyo’s Zojoji temple for his East-meets-West collection, and a collaboration with kawaii culture ambassador Sanrio was the centerpiece of Jun Takahashi’s Undercover collection.

This flash of Japan is frequently missing in their presentations and, judging from the initial online reaction, including them was a good decision.

Street Scene

Finally, for those who are more interested in street fashion, there are two very easy-to-confuse events happening in parallel with the high-fashion orientated week. Shibuya Fashion Week 2020 Autumn runs from Oct. 12 through 22, and the completely separate Shibuya Harajuku Fashion Festival is held the weekend of Oct. 17 and 18.

Both events focus on narrating the street culture behind the fashion, as well as integrating what is currently in-store into your wardrobe, so they should be a shot in the arm for both the street and retail scenes in these youth fashion hubs.

Shibuya Fashion Week:

Shibuya Harajuku Fashion Festival:

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Jeffrey Johnston is a Japan based event photographer and publisher/writer and has been fortunate enough to travel and see the world. Been exposed to the limitless possibilities of photography over 12 years ago, he was able to see things differently. He currently shoots in the areas of people, fashion, event & news photography in Japan. He maintains a Facebook page with samples of his work. He can also be found at about contract work or with questions or comments on his photography.


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