Tokyo Girls Collection Shows No Signs of Bowing to Recession

by Kelly Wetherille

If anyone out and about in the Shibuya/Harajuku area on Saturday, September 5 was wondering where all the young, fashion-conscious Japanese women were, you needed only to turn your attention to the National Stadium at Yoyogi Park. Inside this magnificent structure over 20,000 fashion fanatics participated in what is perhaps the world’s largest interactive festival centered around clothes and shopping.

This season marked the ninth installment of the Tokyo Girls Collection (TGC), which is organized and put on by the marketing geniuses behind the portals (an online fashion magazine and social networking site) and (a multi-brand shopping site carrying Japan’s trendiest and most popular styles). At its core a truly commercial event, Tokyo Girls Collection is unique in that it allows visitors to purchase the fashions via mobile phone as they are going down the catwalk. Unlike the luxury brand fashion shows of cities such as New York and Paris, which are open only to buyers, press, and select celebrities, anyone with money to spend can attend TGC. Tickets are ¥5,000 and ¥7,000 in advance, and ¥500 more on the day. The event lasts roughly seven hours, and in addition to the fashion shows, it also includes live shows by young pop stars (this season’s performers included Jin Akanishi of the popular boy band Kat-Tun and young songstress Thelma Aoyama), a charity auction, the Miss TGC beauty contest, and slews of booths offering various drawings, giveaways, and samples to those who scan their mobile phones on touch panels and sign up to receive promotional emails from the sponsors.

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The brands that participate in the event change each season in order to include the most of-the-moment trends and styles. This season offered something for everyone, from the trendiest Shibuya 109 shoppers to office workers and sports enthusiasts. Overall, there was a strong 80s influence, with leggings, miniskirts, zippers, studs, and faux fur all featuring prominently. Sponsor Yofuku no Aoyama presented a collection of serious office suits for both women and men, and FILA styled colorful golf and tennis wear to look like it had been plucked straight from the streets of Shibuya. Beams took the event’s theme ‘The Hunting’ more than a little too far with a bizarre and tasteless show that included dead cartoon bunnies (complete with bloody wounds and crosses for eyes) and a model carrying a (hopefully toy) rifle, which she proceeded to point at the audience as she sashayed down the runway. Only in Japan would a display like this be met with nothing more than the usual cheers and applause afforded to all other brands.

International brands Kitson and TOPSHOP presented more risqué collections than their Japanese counterparts, showing off the models’ long and shapely legs in hot pants, lace tights, and bodysuits. TOPSHOP was also unique in that it chose mostly non-Japanese, relatively unknown models, rather than the local girls favored by other brands. The exception to this was Ai Tominaga, perhaps the most famous Japanese model overseas, who closed TOPSHOP’s show in a shiny, all-black outfit and killer heels.

One of the last shows of the night was the debut of Nicky Hilton’s eponymous Japan-exclusive fashion line, during which the socialite walked the runway in her designs and answered questions on the stage afterward. Her collection, which is heavy on the studs, zippers, sequins, and feathers, is sure to be a hit amongst her Japanese fans when it goes on sale in October.

Aside from the obvious draws for fashion companies to participate in Tokyo Girls Collection, the event is also popular with non-clothing brands hoping to tap into the growing market of young, financially independent Japanese women. Toyota was there promoting its ultra-compact car iQ, and Knorr and Xylish provided every attendee with a sample of their products. Karaoke chain Shidax, restaurant portal Guru Navi, and cosmetics companies Kao, DHC, and Maybelline also participated. While it could be said that there was slightly less commercial activity than in previous sessions, the sheer energy of the event seemed to beg the question, “What recession?”

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