March 21, 2019

Akiko Shinoda discusses why Japanese designers are too modest

japan fashion week Akiko Shinoda

Akiko Shinoda, the current director of international affairs at Japan Fashion Week, is on a mission to bring light to more Japanese creators. In an era where fashion is ultra connected, Japanese designers still remain focused on their local market which suffices to sustain business. As competition heats up, Japanese fashion may need to adapt or it will lose its position as a cultural leader.

Japanese should be looking to expand

For Akiko Shinoda, Japan’s fashion scene is as strong as ever. Local designers are in demand and as such not pressed to expand operations overseas. In addition, designers typically speak little to no English, often a barrier to pushing their work beyond. However, Shinoda wants this to change and for typically shy creators to go beyond their comfort zone and showcase their work elsewhere. By embracing uncertainty, local talent can become the pioneers of tomorrow.

A gilded age of fashion

Perhaps the most important take-away is how Japan’s global fashion revolution in the 80’s has run out of steam. Back then, designers like Yohji Yamamoto, Issey Miyake and Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons burst through the scene. It was then followed by the Urahara movement and the pioneers of streetwear such as Hiroshi Fujiwara, Jun Takahashi of UNDERCOVER, NIGO of A Bathing Ape, and Shinsuke Takizawa of NEIGHBORHOOD.  Today, very few designers have made headway with a few noteworthy exceptions. Shinoda notes that regional competitors such as Korea and China are making great strides to potentially dethrone Japan as a cultural powerhouse. For example, Korea leverages private business and government bodies to attract international demand. As such, Korea is taking the reins through K-Pop, K-Fashion and K-Beauty.

Why Japanese mindsets need to change

As Shinoda points, out, most Japanese designers focus on quality and craft above all else. This means that brands spend little to no time trying to branch their message out to international markets, losing out on potential opportunities. As such, Shinoda wants to leverage international events to tell these stories in greater depth and ensure Japan’s dominance continues. With fashion as a key export, we hope to see more Japanese designers break onto the scene.

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