With the long term in mind, Japan Fashion Week draws in New York for one night

Japanese fashion, from its Harajuku girls clad in frilly lace to the heavily made-up gothic Lolitas camped out near the Meiji Shrine, has always been inventive and highly imaginative. But for all its whim and creativity, Japanese fashion has also always been inwardly focused, its typically small independent labels catering to the ebbs and flows of a fickle domestic market yet rarely reaching beyond its shores. Even prominent foreign companies such as Burberry have created labels solely for the Japanese market (in this case, Burberry Blue and Burberry Black) rather than the other way around.

The lack of international revenue is not lost on Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which has taken steps to broaden an apparel industry hurt by the current recession. One of these efforts has included a recurring preview of Japan Fashion Week in New York, occurring a month before the semi-annual Tokyo collections. Coinciding with New York Fashion Week, the Fall 2010 preview played out to a packed SoHo loft as live models wore the designs of eight labels in rotating presentation style. Three of these – Shida Tatsuya, The Dress & Co. Hideaki Sakaguchi and tiny dinosaur – held runway shows during Japan Fashion Week, while the rest – aptform, CHAOLU lab, Mikio Sakabe, Naoshi Sawayanagi and YU – figured into various trade shows and exhibitions in New York and Tokyo.

While the preview served as a fine introduction to those unfamiliar with Japanese labels, it remains to be seen whether events like these can translate to overseas success. Women’s fashion sold in Japan, for example, are sometimes offered in what is called a “free size” (the equivalent to “one size fits all”), often somewhere in the limited range of a US size 0-4. In addition, the demand for up-and-coming labels far exceeds the supply – case in point, the talented designer Ayu Furuhashi’s airy creations for her label fur fur, which has shown at Japan Fashion Week. Her clothing has a refreshing Virgin Suicides-meets-boho chic uniqueness to them but, as one of her shopkeepers told me last month, one can find the label in only two stores: Laforet Harajuku and Parco Part 1, both in Tokyo.

However, there are signs of progress for those who strive to be the heir apparent of Yohji Yamamoto, Rei Kawakubo or Junya Watanabe. Select pieces by The Dress & Co., G.V.G.V. and Tsumori Chisato are sold at New York City’s Opening Ceremony, and W Magazine recently featured the husband-and-wife duo of Matohu in a two-page March spread. Then, of course, there is the prospect of an actual trip to Japan to score a one-of-a-kind outfit. Until then, check out our slideshows featuring all eight labels from the Japan Fashion Week preview in New York, as well as our reviews of the @IZREEL, Entoptic, Gut’s Dynamite Cabarets and Somarta Fall 2010 shows in Tokyo:

Japan Fashion Week Fall 2010 preview in New York:
Mikio Sakabe
Naoshi Sawayanagi
Shida Tatsuya
The Dress & Co. Hideaki Sakaguchi
tiny dinosaur
Japan Fashion Week in Tokyo Fall 2010:
Gut’s Dynamite Cabarets