Up-and-coming Japanese designers are building up a head of steam as they try to bust into overseas markets.
Italy's leading online retailer, Yoox Group, recently began selling items from five Japanese labels that participated in Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tokyo this month, including ato and G.V.G.V.
The Yoox Web site (www.yoox.com) offers clothes and accessories by well-known designers as well as limited-edition items by exclusive brands.
Yoox added video interviews with Japanese designers to its Web site with English subtitles, in a collaboration with the Japan Fashion Week Organization aimed at promoting Japanese fashion abroad.
JFW Organization Chairman and Representative Director Masahiko Miyake said: "The online presence lets buyers around the world check out pictures of products before they make an order. [Teaming up with Yoox] is a big advantage for Japanese designers."
Also helping to give the local fashion industry an international push is the Japan External Trade Organization, which invited eight buyers from six countries to join a business confab coinciding with Fashion Week. Buyers from Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, both seen as markets with huge export potential, were invited for the first time.
Michel Salame, a buyer from Lebanon, negotiated with 17 Japanese labels during his stay in Tokyo.
"I didn't know much about Tokyo labels before, but now I've seen their designs and their high quality. I'm sure they'll be popular in the Middle East," he said.
Many young Fashion Week designers cannot afford the extra staff and production operations they need to grow their businesses--but the spotlight of Fashion Week is a chance to attract the attention of supporters who can launch them in the global market.
Discovering and nurturing rookie designers is one of the biggest goals of Fashion Week.
At previous events, the JFW Organization had used government subsidies to provide runway venues free of charge and hold design contests for young artists.
However, the subsidies to JFW were terminated this season, and the government has shifted the focus of its financial aid to helping proven designers gain new business opportunities.
The Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry has launched the Creative Growth Opportunity Support initiative as part of the government's Cool Japan strategy. The scheme is aimed at helping young and mid-level designers advance overseas.
This fiscal year, 99 million yen was allocated to support 19 labels. For instance, each label was given 1 million yen to buy materials. The scheme also introduces designers to buyers, and does online market research for their designs.
"The new system doesn't support events like Fashion Week, but tries to help designers' businesses that have potential to succeed overseas but have little money," said Mika Takagi, deputy director of the Commerce and Information Policy Bureau's Creative Industries Division in the Ministry's Cool Japan Promotion Office.
Up-and-coming designers are also finding support from within the private sector. International logistics company DHL, which was among the sponsors of Fashion Week, on Oct. 17 named Motonari Ono winner of its DHL Designer Award. The fashion house will be given free overseas shipping for its products.
Meanwhile, on Oct. 20 fashion retailer Parco launched the Fight Fashion Fund, an original venture that enables members of the public to invest directly in young designers.