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Elle Canada
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Japan Fashion Week tries to keep up

By C. James Dale TOKYO – Sporting leopard print pants, white low top Converse, and oversized designer sunglasses, Ia swooped in ten minutes late for our coffee date, the epitome of street chic. The host of NHK World TV’s Tokyo Fashion Express is still on a high from her annual trek to New York Fashion Week. So, is she excited about the arrival of Japan Fashion Week? Not so much. “It’s just really not on the same level as New York and Paris, especially the runway shows,” she said with a sigh last week. “It’s more off-the-rack kind of stuff.” It’s a harsh assessment, but perhaps there’s some truth to it. Aside from designers such as Issey Miyaki and Kenzo, the Japanese are known more for their mainstream clothing lines, and how they bring their styles to the street, than their haute couture. Still, organizers of the 11th Japan Fashion Week are pushing ahead. The event runs from October 18-24 and features runway shows, exhibitions, and installations. First up was Tokyo-based designer Sara Arai with the araisara spring and summer 2011 collection. The runway at Yebisu Garden Hall was actually a big square platform, done up in white and made whiter by blinding lights that shined down upon it. The show started off with ethereal string music, so soft you could hear the pounding of the models’ platform wedges as they strutted around. The line itself had some good moments, but fell short of being a cohesive collection and seemed to lack direction. Toward the end, the show was being driven by hard driving club beats. But it never seemed to reach the kind of crescendo or provide the pizzazz you expect from top-notch runway events. I found myself drifting back to the conversation I’d had with Ia about Japan Fashion Week in general. “There’s just no spirit,” she told me. “We could go out there to Shibuya (one of Japan’s main shopping districts) and ask any young person if they know Japan Fashion Week is on right now, and they won’t.” But Ia isn’t totally blasé about this fall’s lineup. She confided that she’s more in a menswear kind of mood, and is looking forward to Tuesday’s yoshio kubo runway show. So while she might have left her heart in New York, Ia will still be attending the shows, the events, and, of course, the parties at Japan Fashion Week.
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