New York Fashion Week is not like Paris Fashion Week and Milan Fashion Week is not like London Fashion Week. Tokyo also has it’s own way of spinning the fashion cogs, and it may be unlike any other you will (or have) experienced. If you’re in Tokyo for Mercedes Benz fashion week (which starts tomorrow), here are some things I would suggest for making the best out of it. And do I have to remind all foreigners that it has nothing to do with sushi and Sailor Moon (even though SM is totally “IN” right now in Tokyo, for real. And we definitely eat during fashion week…see below.).
Shibuya Fashion Festival 2014 SS
* BE. ON. TIME. I cannot iterate this enough. I know that the rule of thumb for overseas shows is “Leave your hotel the same time the show is scheduled to start and still be on time.” But this is Tokyo, where train conductors will get on hands and knees to apologize for being a minute late. Get to the show a few minutes early, or at least *right* on time, or you WILL miss it.
* ….take the train. It’s true that traffic in Tokyo is not nearly as terrible as it is in every other fashion city (um, an HOUR to get from SOHO to midtown?? And in Paris I had to run from the taxi to the metro or I would have missed the Chanel show). And yes, it’s easier to get a cab than any other city, too. But most shows are conveniently held at the Hikarie shopping complex connected to Shibuya station and taking the train is not seen as so bourgeois as it is in other world cities. Taxis in Tokyo are some of the most expensive in the world (starting 710yen=USD$7 for 2km) so honestly, if you’re taking cabs every where you’re just being stupid and unadventurous.
* Seats don’t have name reservations. Seats come on a first come first serve-ish basis, and the heirarchy is a bit different than overseas. TOP: Business partners, long-time friends. NEXT: Media, in age from oldest people to youngest, despite who they write for. LAST: Media, who are new to the brand, despite who they write for. NOSEBLEED: Buyers.
* Designers are extremely open to interviews after the shows (If you can get a translator). Unlike overseas, there is no bumrush to the backstage to get an interview with a designer, instead they will come out and take questions from the press. It’s kind of difficult for local media since everyone is asking the same questions in front of each other, but if you can snag a few minutes alone it’s a great opportunity.
*There are a lot of brands in Tokyo, and many of them run exhibitions during fashion week. Check the CFD calendar for off-schedule shows and exhibitions. If you are press, you generally just need to show up on press/friends day (yeah, it’s a thing!) and bring a business card.
* BRING A BUSINESS CARD. Golden rule!
* People generally dress in GOTH or LOLITA or MAID COSPLAY to the shows.
…Hah, kidding. It’s pretty casual, nothing like Paris or New York where people where the latest collections from designer brands. Editors here don’t really play that game, they’re working, not sashaying for the cameras. You might find a smattering of Harajuku bloggers in a wild “Tokyo” style, but generally the two genres don’t mesh so much.
High fashion mags on Harajuku style: Huh.
Harajuku kids on high fashion mags: Huh?
*English. Language is still kind of a problem, many brands do their own sales/pr along with the design and production and if they didn’t study in Europe or the US for their fashion education, chances that they speak English are pretty slim. Be patient, talk slowly, and politeness will get you everywhere.
*People in other major cities never seem to eat during fashion week, but in Japan we EAT (it must be all of their Asian superpower never-get-fat genes in play). So after the last show, even if it’s late, you’ll find people scrambling off to eat. Or sometimes they will skip shows to go eat instead. If there is “the” place that fashion people congregate at, it’s Montoak on Omotesando, Two Rooms in Aoyama for Drinks, and Le Baron for the afterparties.
*Parties. There really aren’t any, it’s not a part of the scene like it is in New York, London or Paris. You might stumble into Le Baron to find a party hosted by a brand happening one night, but they are an afterthought. Tokyo is just not a big party city, surprising as it may be. Although Sretsis is doing a party Monday at Lebaron and C.E. will hold one later in the week.
Amuro Namie at the tape cutting ceremony a year ago
*Hotels: There are generally no fashionable boutique or party/trendy/genY in Tokyo, you are STUCK with luxury hotels or teeny tiny and drab business hotels. I really can’t believe it either. The only ones I can recommend are Granbell and UNIZO, both in Shibuya. Good luck getting bookings!
*Finally, the shows are not open to the general public. You can snag an invite by being a really good customer and buying a lot of stuff from a particular brand, and hope to get a standing invite. Otherwise, the best hope you’ll have to get into a show is to register as a blogger/media next season. OR, you could join in the fun at the Shibuya Fashion Festival, which is like a Fashion’s Night Out -level Shibuya-wide shopping party. Many Shibuya stores have in-store events as well as some fashion installations being held throughout the day. The Dress & Co. , Jenny Fax, Theatre Products, and Mikio Sakabe are among the brands participating. See details here (Google Translate it!).
Tokyo Fashion Week is more of a place to discover new or up and coming brands that buyers clamor over, although it does take a bit of research to find them. But when you do, it is oh so rewarding—!