Tokyo fashion: superior street style lost in transaction

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Tokyo fashion week was set to open Monday with a show by a US designer, an arrangement observers say underlines the absence of local labels on the world stage despite the city’s reputation for edgy street wear and shaping global trends.

More than fifty fashion houses will exhibit their collections over the next six days, casting a spotlight on designers working with materials ranging from denim to handwoven silk.

“There is no shortage of design talent in Japan,” said Akiko Shinoda, director of international affairs at Japan Fashion Week Organization, which is responsible for the event.

“Unfortunately many designers and textile houses are still quite unknown outside Japan, (so) we need to promote them,” Shinoda told AFP.

At times Tokyo’s pavements feel like their own catwalks, with youngsters sporting an array of weird and wonderful ensembles.

Beanie hats worn by girls high on their head seem to be everywhere this autumn, even with the mercury still in the mid twenties.

But while Tokyo’s fashionistas are applauded by bloggers and columnists worldwide for their daring and sophistication, the wealth of street style inspiration hasn’t translated into big business — for Japanese designers anyway.

Frenchman Loic Bizel was among the first style hunters to cash in on Tokyo’s unique status as a laboratory of trends back in 2001.

“This city is so ahead of the curve when it comes to fashion, trends begin here and then months later, maybe even a year later, they go global,” Bizel told AFP.

The Tokyo-based trend-spotter plays a key role in this process.

For anywhere between $700-$1,200 a day, he takes clients representing retail giants like H&M, Nordstrom and Zara on a tour of Tokyo s most edgy boutiques, tucked away along quiet side lanes and often known only to fashion insiders.

Bizel s clients pay big bucks to his company, Tokyo Fashion Tour, to scout inspiration.

“In one case, we had buyers from Primark who must have bought some $20,000 worth of samples in a single day, in the end they had to buy extra suitcases to carry all the stuff,” Bizel said.