The Fashion Statement: The Plight of Japanese Designers
Normally, Tokyo follows India in the global fashion week calendar. But in the wake of the earthquake, the tsunami and nuclear explosions that rocked the country, shows were canceled. Although Tokyo wasn't directly hit by catastrophe, the decision to halt the shows came down to an iffy electricity supply, transportation snafus and the safety of attendees.
Yet some of Japan's top designers showcased their collections at Lakme Fashion Week (pictured above) in India. Tokyoeye, an initiative by Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, brought the best of Japanese fashion talent to India. Designers Motonari Ono, Tamae Hirokawa and Sara Arai showed on the very day the tsunami hit their home country.
Arai, implemented a dying art from Japan called Yohenzomei, in the form of a fabric that changes color under light. She hoped to make an impact on India in order to "send cheer back to her countrymen." Designers Hirokawa and Ono noted that they were influenced by their country's traditional weaves and craftsmanship.
Earlier this month, several Japanese designers presented in Paris. Kaito Hori and Iku Furudate for Commuun unveiled a smart collection of frilly dresses in bold stripes and unusual silhouettes such as a tracksuit pant featuring a fold-over apron-esque panel turned up to simulate a high waist. Tsumori Chisato channeled Betsey Johnson with an eclectic melange of capes and dresses that mixed color blocking with animal prints and stripes. Junko Shimada's lineup included luxurious furs, rich wools and ultra feminine sheers and lace.
Yohji Yamamoto, arguably the most famous of them all, went all out with a crimson dress and coat combo that exposed cage-like crinolines.
Business in Japan -- fashion in particular -- has been crippled. Retailers in Tokyo are closing early, telling employees to stay home to avoid transit problems. They are dimming lights due to rolling blackouts. And even if people were in the mood, few are out shopping.
Designers who won't get the chance to show buyers their goods and, hence, forgo sales, will fare much worse than retailers. Japan Fashion Week in Tokyo producers vow to help designers show their collections via the Web or less formal presentations. And it is my hope that retail buyers worldwide will make an extra effort to view Japanese lines, wherever they are shown.