Rakuten Fashion Week Tokyo 2021

Virtual shows, rainy rooftop catwalks and mask fashion. Designers and organizers alike twisted adversity into opportunity at the latest Rakuten Fashion Week Tokyo, managing to innovatively host Japan’s much-anticipated fashion event despite the coronavirus pandemic.

Here are some of the week’s highlights and how Japan’s top designers are envisioning the spring and summer of 2021. (We have our fingers crossed that it’s a much more positive scene compared to the pandemic-consumed 2020.)

Creative outdoor runways 

Like its Paris and New York counterparts, Tokyo saw parks and outdoor spaces transform into fashion runways. Models weaved through pathways and foliage in Shinjuku Gyoen’s balmy greenhouse for TAAK’s show, while MIKIO SAKABE announced its 2021 Spring / Summer collection on the rooftop of the newly-opened Miyashita Park in Shibuya.

Despite the rainy weather at the latter, designers Mikio Sakabe and Shueh Jen-Fang’s choice of sheer fabrics, translucent raincoats and practical trainers were up to the task. Instead of soggy models with clothes clinging miserably to skin, the collection’s sweet pastel shades, crisp whites and puffy sleeves and skirts beautifully juxtaposed against the dark grey skies and reflected off the wet sheen of the ground.

Practicality, muted tones and mask fashion 

Fashion has always been a reflection of the world we live in and this Tokyo Fashion Week was no exception. Muted tones, practicality and light layers were popular motifs — as was the appearance of masks. Fashion photographer Louise Angerer reflects that “The fashion was still more reserved, streamlined and functional than in previous years, and the runway felt subdued with darker hues.” She jokes that “Many collections felt almost post-apocalyptic, as if this is what’s left after the craziness of 2020.”

Men’s fashion brand Meanswhile epitomized this concept. With practical vests, straps, buckles and drawstring sleeve cuffs, all set against durable, waterproof fabrics in stony, earthy shades, the models looked ready for a survival mission. You’d be forgiven for thinking they were lost on a mountainside if it wasn’t for the industrial scaffolding hunched over the runway, pulling us back into the realm of urban apparel.

Brights and bolds

Designers such as Rynshu and HIROKO KOSHINO brought silver linings of color ahead of next year’s warmer months. Perhaps these bursts of bolder shades are a statement about looking towards a brighter future in 2021. Whatever the reason behind them, key pieces like Rynshu’s striking metallic orange and blue snakeskin suit, as well as the neon-accented swimsuits, summer dresses and chunky beach wedges of KOSHINO’s dreamy online pool party, oozed “let’s celebrate.”

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