Rooms celebrated its 30th edition and MAN Tokyo produced only its second installment this month in the Japanese capital. Our Tokyo correspondent, Paul McInnes, was there to report on what went on at the main Japanese tradeshows for AW 15.

Entrance at Rooms
Entrance at Rooms
It would be fair to say that a few years ago Rooms, the main Japanese trade show, appeared on its last legs. Dwindling attendance and a lackluster atmosphere made it a chore for many and it became the antithesis of what it should be – a celebration of Japanese fashion and creative industries and a hub for domestic and international buyers and press.

However, executive producer Mica Sato has managed to turn things around and on its 30th anniversary Rooms was a bustling hive of activity with over 500 exhibitors. Yoyogi National Stadium, which has played host to many Rooms, was crowded with long queues outside the stadium on most days. Samuel Thomas, columnist for The Japan Times and Lecturer at the prestigious Bunka Fashion College, ties the success of Rooms with “its unashamed embrace of the "Japan" in "Japanese fashion.” He goes on to say that:

Daichi Knit Marketing Ltd
Daichi Knit Marketing Ltd
“In a country where the official fashion week is in the European mold, and where Paris always sets the march, it is remarkably refreshing to find an event that puts Japan first, and frames its output as equal. Unsurprisingly with Japan's perceived Cool Japan endorsed Soft Power currency riding high, this is also very attractive to international buyers and journalists, and while the timings work very poorly in relation to fashion week events in New York, by and large it has been more successful that most in persuading foreign industry to visit, especially from East Asia. Rooms was also one of the first showrooms to recognize the difficulties faced by language and cultural barriers and provide interpretation, guides and negotiations in a variety of languages necessary for bridging said gaps.”

Highlight of the event was young brand, Dario, which is designed by Taiwanese creator Dario Hsieh and is part of the stable of Japanese firm H.P. France. Dario is a colorful and playful label which caters to the Harajuku crowd and embraces the creative uniqueness which is coming out of Asia at this time.

Mica Sato explains that Rooms main goal is “bringing Japanese design to the world. We have featured many local industries and domestic brands, and now it is time to bring them overseas. We have plans to open showrooms in Paris and New York which will give domestic brands a chance to enter the overseas market. I would like for the world to see Japan’s excellence in design.”

Rooms fair grounds
Rooms fair grounds

MAN Tokyo, on the other hand, is the newcomer to the Japanese tradeshow circuit. Debuting last year it’s a relatively small affair with about 50 brands showing. On paper, at least, it’s a tempting mix of cool Japanese menswear such as Edifice, Bedwin & The Heartbreakers and Makavelic and international labels like Bleu de Paname and La Paz. The weather, heavy storms and snow, may have affected attendance, however, as the numbers weren’t too healthy for such a big name, global trade show. Some of the brands even mentioned the lack of attendees and buyers with serious fashion clout.

The highlight was Berlin-based Julius Errol Flynn who showcased a tightly curated collection of shirts and his newly designed chinos which impressed GQ editor Keita Takeda who is said to be an admirer of the Chicago-native Flynn. Designed in Berlin and made within the EU with top quality textiles Flynn’s brand is both exciting and dynamic. However, MAN may have to try a little harder in future editions if it wants to remain a serious player in the Japanese fashion calendar.