On the surface level, Japan Fashion Week for s/s 2011 seemed to be a roaring success. There was an eclectic schedule of established brands and newcomers as well as a 4.2% increase in attendance from last season’s event. There was also more of an atmosphere this season with numerous exciting off-shoot events and parties which appeared to, albeit temporarily, shake off the terminally boring image JFW has earned since its inception in 2005. However, the worrying statistic, as far as the organizers are concerned, is the hefty decline in the number of international buyers from 62 last season to 50 this time around. Economic woes will be blamed but something has to be done soon to make JFW a relevant event in terms of business and not just aesthetics.

Japanese womenswear tends to be creative and whimsical with the word avant-garde not really doing it justice. The menswear on offer, however, was sporty and casual and actually perfect for the spring and summer seasons. Although denim is one of Japan’s greatest exports it’s a fabric which has rarely featured in previous seasons. This time several leading Japanese menswear brands showcased denim in their collections from the much touted Vanquish, trend-setting labels Phenomenon and Discovered and newcomers like The River (showing off-schedule in a showroom exhibition).

Vanquish, designed by Ryo Ishikawa, in its first collection for JFW, played with denim on denim in a variety of washes all part of its collaboration with fragment design. Vanquish also presented some collaborative items in conjunction with Adidas Originals. The models included Japanese TV star Daigo, one of the members from Japanese band Kishidan as well as male supermodels Sen Mitsuji and Adrej Pejic.

Phenomenon, designed by larger-than-life Takeshi Osumi aka Big-O, has built up a solid reputation over the years for streetwear and much sought-after collaborations with international labels such as Cassette Playa. For s/s 2011, however, it took a more commercial direction with fresher and more wearable apparel. Checked suits and wrap/kilts, pops of cobalt blue, natty bandanas and a collection of denim coats, shirts, shorts and accessories gave Big-O and his crew a new lease of life and quickly established Phenomenon as one of the big boys in Tokyo menswear.

Sanae Yoshida and Tatsuya Kimura's Discovered has received a lot of deserved adulation over the past few years for their refreshing designs and modern approach and vision. The new collection referenced British youth cultures such as skinheads and punk, primarily through the use of denim and overall styling in addition to channeling the patchwork checks of iconic Japanese outfit Comme des Garcons.

The River, brainchild of Jun Hagan and Testsuya Omura, is a new brand which crosses European trad - casual looks with American inspiration. Its inaugural collection "Timothy Island" comes from the duo's love of Timothy Leary – famed American counter-cultural hero. The apparel speaks for itself - checks, paisley, seersucker, a neat group of polos, shirts with Leary quotations inscribed on them and superb wide selvedge jeans all made and treated in Japan with only the best material used in the production process.

It was actually a bumper season for domestic menswear which made up for the fact that JFW can be looked upon as a sinking ship. Unless major new investment and management is found and influential buyers can be attracted, the future of this particular fashion week looks fairly bleak.