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Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2012

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Fashion moguls: Big names, including (from left to right) U.S. Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour, designer Michael Kors, singer Jennifer Hudson and model Ai Tominaga, promote Fashion's Night Out at the Michael Kors store in Omotesando, Tokyo. MAMI TANABE


A backward glance to see the future


Fashion highlights of 2011

Even if the March 11 earthquake had not occurred, the Japanese fashion industry went through quite a few changes last year.

Looking back, quake aside, the biggest story could arguably be the sponsorship of Tokyo Fashion Week by the Mercedes-Benz corporation. The car company swooped in just as the Japan Fashion Week Organization found itself struggling to find corporate sponsorship while its government-backed budget dwindled.

Mercedes-Benz sponsors a number of fashion weeks around the world, including New York City. Tokyo is now part of that inner circle with a five-year contract for an undisclosed amount. Its first event under sponsorship revealed an increased energy and optimism for the nine seasons to come.

Fashion's Night Out on Nov. 5, was also a an evening to remember. With the aim of encouraging Japan to revive itself in the postquake economic slump, 17 editors in chief from Vogue magazines around the world showed their support by coming to Tokyo. It was the first time so many Vogue editors visited the city at the same time and even the high priestess of fashion herself, U.S. Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour, made an unprecedented appearance.

Dropping in on local high-end stores to meet her fans and giving personal advice to a handful of local designers, Wintour's presence was a highlight of the night.

The entire stretch of Omotesando-dori was packed with revelers who surprisingly spent a good amount of yen. "We sold a lot more product than expected (in the Aoyama store)," said Issey Miyake PR representative Akane Suzuki.

Finally, to the surprise of its fans, popular Japanese brand A Bathing Ape was bought out by Hong Kong fashion conglomerate I.T. for ¥230 million in spring last year. Not only was this buyout considered far lower than the influential street-style brand was thought to be worth, but the move also indicated the growing strength of Chinese consumerism, something that is anticipated to continue in the future. (Misha Janette)

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Christian Dior and Anselm Reyle offer neon brights to lift you out of this winter's gloomy blues

While winter fashion tends to favor the dreary end of the color scale, Parisian luxury brand Christian Dior is going against the grain with a capsule collection that is so bright it could give you a tan.

A collaborative effort with contemporary German artist Anselm Reyle, there were no holds barred — a variety of accessories and bags have been blanketed in some seriously eye-searing neon colors. Reyle often works with camouflage print, and here he pop-ifies it with funky purple, magenta, electric blue and neon yellow, using it on tote bags and shoes. He was also given free rein to reinterpret the brand's iconic Lady Dior quilted handbag, which he did so by tilting the stitching onto its side and amplifies it with neon thread.

All this is reminiscent of Reyle's sculptures, which examined modernism through the use of found objects and discarded neon lights.

There are 30 pieces in the collection that includes bags, bangles, necklaces, scarves and sunglasses. A line of makeup is also available with compacts featuring the same camouflage pattern of colors and a range of bright nail lacquers. Although the line rolled out worldwide Jan. 9, Tokyo debuted the collection nearly a week earlier on Jan. 4 at a popup shop inside the Shinjuku Isetan department store. Get there quick, though, if you're after a colorful pick-me-up; the popup closes Jan 17. (M.J.)

Isetan Shinjuku "The Stage," 1F 3-14-1 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo; (03) 3352-1111; www.diorpr.com/anselm_reyle.

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Back home: Uniqlo in Tokyo Midtown in the Roppongi district of Tokyo.

Uniqlo spreads its word further and gets even bigger

"Uniqlo" was a top fashion buzzword for 2011, and judging by what they have in store for us, it'll likely dominate 2012 as well.

The fast-fashion brand, run by Fast Retailing, opened its second store in the United States in October last year. It stands on the corner of Fifth Avenue and W. 53rd St. in New York City, and at 8,270 sq. meters it is currently the largest Uniqlo in the world.

The store is impressive not only in size, but also in terms of popularity. On any given day before the Christmas holidays it was buzzing with tourists and locals, who were likely drawn in by the bright multicolored styling of window displays as well as the reasonably priced goods. The company itself seemingly got quite the deal, too, paying an astounding $300 million for a 15-year lease on the space.

The Manhattan store may be something to cheer, but Tokyo will not to be left in the dust. After opening flagship stores in New York, London, Paris, Osaka, Seoul, Shanghai, and Beijing, Uniqlo returns home with a new flagship in Tokyo's Ginza district set to open in March this year.

The new store will be an incredible 12 stories tall, and will take Manhattan's crown as the largest Uniqlo in the world. Fast Retailing also plans to open about 300 more stores worldwide in 2012. At that pace, "Uniqlo" will soon no longer be a buzzword but a permanent part of the shopping lexicon. (M.J.)


The gods of Wut Berlin show the public how to set trends

Aoyama select shop Wut Berlin marked its third anniversary last year with a decadent in-store fashion show that was open to both the press and public on Dec. 10.

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It was a fittingly inclusive event for a boutique that first and foremost celebrates the contribution of street style to fashion culture, and the store's way of giving something back to the fans who have made it an institution of the fashion scene.

Modeling the store's unique mix of Tokyo street wear and progressive designer pieces from Berlin were several street-style fashionistas, many of whom have strong and influential online presences, such as Hong Kong blogger Joey Ma.

It was an event representative of the increased importance that select shops play in the dissemination of fashion trends. We are moving into a time when it is not enough to merely display clothes on mannequins. To secure the support of the demanding fashionista, shops must stamp their own identity onto collections. In Wut Berlin's case this was achieved by the buyer and stylist Yann Le Goec's curated vision of futuristic Greek gods of the fashion show. Under this theme, the various items the store stocks were melded into a cohesive collection representative of the direction the store will take next season.

Judging from the enthusiastic reception that this event received, in-store fashion shows will doubtlessly become something that we will see repeated across the city as boutiques fight to establish their own identities. (Samuel Thomas)

Wut Berlin, 5-1-15, Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo; (03) 3797-1505; www.wutberlin.com.

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Taking it to Italy: Mastermind Japan designer Masaaki Homma marks the end of Versus Tokyo on Oct. 22, before taking the show to Italy this January.

Japanese designers to show off their menswear at Italy's Pitti Uomo events in Florence and Milan

Following on from last October's Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tokyo, it has been revealed that as part of the government-funded "Cool Japan" campaign, Japanese menswear brands will be making an appearance at the January Pitti Uomo fashion events in Florence and Milan — and they'll be presenting a series of events dubbed "Tokyo Fashion Week in Italy."

The Japan Fashion Week Organization was quick to appoint Yuichi Yoshi — the man responsible for orchestrating the hugely successful Versus Tokyo series of fashion shows during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tokyo — as director of the project. Yoshi's formidable track record combined with the global reputation of quality and creativity that Japan currently enjoys, the brands taking part in the exhibitions are sure to find a receptive audience later this month.

The list of designers involved is largely in line with that of last October's fashion week, and it includes the giants of Japanese menswear such as Mastermind Japan, Phenomenon and Discovered. But there are also a couple of additions that may surprise, including Ambush and blackmeans who, though synonymous with Tokyo's underground fashion scene, have long proved their ability to charm international buyers.

Alongside these forerunners of Japanese fashion will be Radio Eva, the fashion label based on the anime "Evangelion" under the directorship of Fugahum's Akiyoshi Mishima, which, given the anime's popularity abroad, should at the very least ensure that the event gets the attention it deserves. (S.T.)

For more information, contact info@jfw.jp

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