Events called "fashion week" are held in most of the world's major cities twice a year. Typically, 30 to 100 designer brands - mainly from the host country - spend three to five days holding runway or other fashion shows to unveil the collections and fashion accessories they plan to introduce to the market half a year later.
As the clothes are worn by professional models and presented under special lighting with music, the shows are believed to be the best way to present designers' new looks.
Not all brand names can participate in such events, however. The ones that can are usually those enjoying profits from fairly large operations, since such shows naturally come with a high price tag. Most brands introduce their new styles in an exhibition format, in which clothes are simply hung up for display.
The most famous fashion week is held in Paris, the capital of fashion. The second most important one, in terms of scale and number of participating brands, is in Milan. This is then followed by the fashion week in New York and the one in London. Tokyo Fashion Week rounds out what are called the five largest fashion weeks by people in the Japanese fashion industry.
However, Tokyo Fashion Week, which ended its showing of 2015 spring/summer collections last month, hardly matches up to the other four because it lacks famous brands. Such world-famous Japanese names as Issey Miyake, Comme des Garcons, Yohji Yamamoto and Sacai do not introduce their new collections in Tokyo but in Paris. Anrealage, which made a name for itself at the Tokyo Fashion Week in recent years, also has moved its collection venue to Paris.
Needless to say, few journalists and buyers come to Tokyo from abroad to see the Tokyo collection. However, many of those who have walked the streets of Tokyo say the city is home to some of the world's most outstanding fashion sensitivity. I find the words are not entirely flattering, though. Simply put, the importance of the fashion week of a city does not necessarily reflect the degree of fashion sensitivity found in its streets.
Let me introduce two collections I thought were very special during the latest Tokyo Fashion Week. They were also very typical of the Tokyo collection.
Lad Musician, designed by Yuichi Kuroda, organised its 40th show during the week.
Lad Musician has always presented shows in a unique manner by, for example, accompanying them with so-called shoegazer rock music typified by guitar effects and creative guitar noises, as well as theatrical smoke.
The latest show had fantastic features, too, thanks to a presentation using laser beams, LEDs and other effects.
The show, held under the theme of the rock band Spacemen 3, actually seemed to be an homage to the shoegazing band that broke up in 1991. Sonic Boom, a former Spacemen 3 member, gave a live performance during the show.
Kuroda designs minimal and simple styles, but the show itself was great entertainment with its music and visual presentation. It can be regarded as a kind of otaku world, but it was as beautiful as fireworks in the summer night sky, if you could forget it was part of the fashion business.
The other impressive show was that produced by Nozomi Ishiguro Haute Couture. It organised the evening fashion festival Kawaii Hate Night at Club Diana in Tokyo's Hibiya district on Oct. 27, which included a runway show.
To attract general audiences, a photo session took place in collaboration with a street snap magazine. A special version of a T-shirt jointly made with the magazine was sold, and a live concert was held.
The main event, of course, was the 2015 spring/summer collection of Nozomi Ishiguro Haute Couture held in cooperation with rock band Flying Dutchman Effect.
Ishiguro, who worked at Comme des Garcons' planning department, advocates designs with a message. According to Ishiguro, Kawaii Hate Night reflects a "hatred for Japanese girls and women who keep using the word kawaii." The remarks sound very Ishiguro, a designer known for a spirit of rebelliousness.
Ishiguro believes it does not mean anything if a designer just makes clothes and then lets models work the runway. He thinks actions and statements must accompany clothes.
His belief might have made the latest festival happen by symbiotically combining the euphoria of a rock festival with a fashion show.
Both Lad Musician and Nozomi Ishiguro are truly unique. Tokyo must be the only city where fashion designers like Kuroda and Ishiguro can proudly show such a personal collection.