Bouncing Back

Tokyo Girls’ Collection's Japanese Fashion Spectacular

Welcome to the Tokyo Girls’ Collection, where you buy runway clothes on cell phones.

On Saturday, over 32,000 people will flock to the Tokyo Girls Collection, a blockbuster fashion event held twice a year in a stadium on the city’s perimeter. It’s a spectacular runway show that prides itself on promoting ‘Kawaii,” Japan’s culture of cute.

But the TGC also promises to speed up the still-sluggish metabolism of the fashion industry. During New York Fashion Week, which begins next week, designers will show clothes that aren’t available until Spring of 2012. In Tokyo, meanwhile, as models walk down the day-glo runway, audience members will use their Smartphones to buy the items instantly in an online shop, where each brand has its own digital shop. And shoppers must be present at the TGC to buy clothes -- items aren’t available at a later date.

Since the first show in 2005, the Tokyo Girls’ Collection creates massive business for its participating brands. But this year, the climate of the ostentatious show is different, as the nation bounces back from a devastating earthquake last March. Japan’s retail sector has shown resilience despite the disaster, with retail numbers recovering this summer to surpass those of last July. Despite the earthquake, the show’s organizers expect sales from this year’s TGC to be bigger than ever before.

As such, the theme of this year’s TGC is “Smile for ________,” a title created as an effort to restore courage and hope to those ravaged by the earthquake. “ The ‘______’ is meant to represent a blank for people to fill in as they see fit,” the TGC explained in a company statement.It could be family, someone special, friends, our hope is that girls, who had been hesitant to buy clothes, will remember the magic of shopping.” In order to support recovery, this year’s TGC will feature food and drink specialties from the Tohoku region, where the quake took its most devastating toll.

Unlike fashion shows in New York or Paris that feature clothes that won’t hit stores for another season, the TGC feeds on a culture of immediacy and inclusivity. Entrance to the show costs around $100 US dollars – and it’s a place where girls come to see first-hand the next season’s trends.

Fittingly, the TGC emphasizes what they call “real clothes” -- casual street wear that consumers will want to wear right away. Of course, pared-down street wear doesn’t always make for spectacular show – so the producers make up for it with a day-glo runway that looks like it’s straight out of Boogie Nights. There’s blaring pop music, and Japan’s beloved supermodels throw teddy bears into a squealing crowd, where young girls flash peace signs in adoration.

While the event is organized around a series of themed vignettes, this year’s seven-hour show will feature a special stage that’ll present head-to-toe looks from American Apparel—the LA-based retailer that excels in Asian markets. “I recently spent some time in Asia, particularly in Japan and South Korea and I’m enthusiastic about the brand doing something different over there,” Dov Charney, its CEO, told The Daily Beast. This year, American Apparel is one of the few Western brands to participate in the TGC. Presenting eight looks comprised of the brand’s more trendy fare (high-waist pleated pants, chiffon items, and round-collar shirts), American Apparel’s sequence will kick things off with a video—an homage to the company’s 70’s prepster aesthetic, with a series of editorial photos and a soundtrack of synthesized film noir-era beats. “I don’t think we could have a 32,000 person fashion show in New York if we tried,” says Katherine Johnson, American Apparel’s Japanese operations manager. “I find that young women in Japan are a lot more conscious of their fashion sense more so than the average American would be.”