Japanese brands withdrawing from Fashion Week

Tokyo Fashion Week is a biannual event that takes place in mid-March and mid-October. It begins a week or two after Paris Fashion Week and marks the end of the Women’s Fashion Week season that takes place in major cities around the world. When it first started as Japan Fashion Week Tokyo, the event took place before the NY show (or any other show) on the first week of September. Japanese designers who participated however, voiced that buyers tended to prefer seeing the NY and Paris shows before buying, and thus the timing was shifted to mid-October. This decision was made by the Japan Fashion Week Organization committee member and current CEO of Cool Japan Fund Inc., Nobuyuki Ota.

More recently however, we have heard many designers requesting for an earlier Tokyo Fashion Week, as the mid-October timing leaves only two months for production and a short lead-time often creates issues in product quality and delivery. The S/S season Fashion Weeks begin just as US and European summer holidays come to an end in August, which means production lead-time is shortened by a month compared to the mid-March A/W season. In addition to this, the recent MADE IN JAPAN trend has brought a large bulk of major retail brands back to Japan for manufacturing, making the few top-quality manufacturing facilities busier than ever. Designer brands have a disadvantage compared to major retail brands with fewer lots which can lead to the risk of low prioritization, delayed delivery and being turned down all together. In 2014, 97% of Japan’s apparel market was manufactured abroad and just 3% was made in Japan. With limited production capacity, the return of major brands has put even more strain on independent and younger designer brands. To avoid conflict with major retailers, these brands have no choice but to delay production until November and December when most factories would normally take time off.

Given this situation, we have seen a sudden increase in brands that have moved their runway shows and exhibitions to an earlier timing for this S/S 2017 season. In the past years, menswear brand yoshio kubo took orders from the Paris Men’s Collection in June and an exhibition in July, while participating in the October Tokyo Fashion Week solely for showcasing. As Tokyo Fashion Week posed no business opportunities, this year the brand hosted their own fashion show/exhibition in July instead.

The same trend has also been seen in womenswear brands. From August through early September, YASUTOSHI EZUMI, LAMARCK, Hanae Mori manuscrit and support surface hosted their own runway shows, while many others chose to do just exhibitions. As a result, 15 to 20 womenswear brands have unveiled their collection about two months earlier.

YASUTOSHI EZUMI, the promising designer behind the womenswear brand of the same name explained the reason behind this trend. “A runway show in mid-October and an exhibition in late-October does not give us sufficient production lead-time, and therefore makes it challenging for us to deliver high quality products. If we do runway/exhibitions in Tokyo before NY and Paris, it would provide us ample production time.” Norio Sunakabe, the designer behind the brand support surface says, “The current schedule does not allow us enough time. We hope Tokyo Fashion Week will return to its original timing before the NY show.”

Changing the schedule of Fashion Week would require global coordination and the task certainly would not be easy. However, considering that many promising designers are opting out of Tokyo Fashion Week and the event could lose its significance, it seems justifiable to attempt an earlier fashion week for the S/S 2018 season.

4-6 support surface
10-12 yoshio kubo