As the director of international relations for Japan Fashion Week, Akiko Shinoda is a tireless supporter of an industry that, despite the abundance of young talent and the cultural legacy of fashion, appears to lack the official support that the likes of London Fashion Week enjoy.
“The problem in Japan is that our government positions change every year and a half,” says Shinoda. “Once we’ve spent the time convincing these bureaucrats that fashion is important, that person will leave and the process has to start all over again.”
Despite the fragmented local market in Japan, without the type of unified support that cities like London or New York enjoy, Shinoda has worked to bring foreign press to official JFW events. She also aims to bolster the ranks of designers who are showing on-schedule, as many designers choose to go off-schedule. In 2009, Shinoda convinced the Japanese government to sponsor an international showcase of top young Japanese fashion talents in New York City. The government has also pledged to invest $50 million dollars over 20 years to help Japanese companies in the arts and culture sectors grow overseas.
She rightly noted that other countries in Asia, such as Korea, Indonesia and Singapore are heavily investing in fashion and Japan is only now recognising the sector’s potential. The country is home to international heavy-hitters across the price spectrum, from Uniqlo to Rei Kawakubo ’s heavily conceptual Comme des Garçons. Until recently, its appetite for Western luxury labels was also the largest in the region until it was surpassed by China in recent years.