TOKYO – WWD Japan and Lumine held a joint forum in Tokyo last month, inviting executives and designers to discuss the future of the fashion industry under the theme of “next generations”. Topics discussed at the conference, which was a hybrid digital and physical event, included everything from sustainability and diversity to brand management and the future of Asian fashion and culture.
The forum opened with a festive awards ceremony 16 young talents who have been chosen as leaders of the next generation based on their impact on society, creativity, cultural significance and potential to lead the brighter future of fashion. One of the honorees was Ryunosuke Okazaki, who was also chosen as a finalist for this year’s LVMH Award.
The young designer launched his debut collection in 2021 and soon attracted attention for his unique, art-centric fashion pieces. Okazaki joined the online event from Paris and shared his thoughts on the similarities between fashion and art, drawing on her borderless approach to his work and his background in both art and design studio.
“I think the freedom and the mysteriousness of fashion – the fact that you can express yourself by wearing clothes – is very interesting,” said Okazaki.
Haruna Kojima, director of the fashion and beauty brand Her Lip To, rose to prominence as a member of the popular Japanese pop group AKB48. She shared her vision and the strategy she followed to continue growing her brand even during the COVID-19 pandemic. The brand has expanded into the areas of body care and fragrances by promoting self-care and self-love.
With a mission to empower women, media owner and brand entrepreneur Rina Ishii, CEO of Blast, joined a discussion session with Kana Bogaki, founder and president of Makuake; Lisa Yamai, president of Snowpeak, and Syunsuke Ishii, partner of Keshiki. The four discussed the topic of brand management and purpose. Blast owns Nagi, a menswear brand that encourages discussions about the gender gap in Japan. The talk session shared how a company needs to have purpose and show its values to expand and garner consumer empathy.
Gabby Hirata, president and CEO of Diane von Furstenberg, echoed this sentiment in her video chat with Evan Clark, WWD deputy editor-in-chief.
“I think in the end our customers will tell us what the future is, what the trend is. If we stay the old way and think we don’t have to worry about diversity, we don’t have to worry about sustainability, I think our customers will tell us by not buying our clothes, “said Hirata.” Transparency of a company, doing the right thing for a company it is something that customers actually look at, and customers take this into account when making their decision [where to shop]. “
The executive also touched on her experiences and thoughts as an ambitious young Chinese woman in charge.
“I’m still surprised after a year and a half in this job how much impact and power this title gives me, and therefore how much responsibility I have,” said Hirata.
Speakers from South Korea, China, Indonesia and Singapore addressed the future of Asian culture and fashion from each of their perspectives. Soonho Coi from South Korea, Black Label’s senior director of business development, shared how K-pop and fashion are connected and how visual language is essential in creating a cultural theme. He has learned through his career of himself developing famous K-pop artists, including Bigbang’s G-dragon.
Hong Boming, creative director and CEO of the Chinese brand K-Boxing, discussed his business strategy for success in the Chinese market. The Made in China luxury fashion brand has a history of over four decades in the Chinese market and has even displayed its collections on the Great Wall.
Dione Song, CEO of the Singapore-based Love, Bonito brand spoke about her experience managing a brand that aims to offer womenswear options for all major life events. The brand includes casual, work, loungewear, maternity wear and will soon add a sportswear line. Song said her mission is to empower Asian women by helping them build their self-confidence.
Four speakers gathered to discuss the topic of sustainability and fashion, a key global trend that has also started to take off in Japan. Designer Kanako Sakai joined Hiroyuki Kondo, president of Mash Holdings; Councilor Lumine Mineaki Saito and Keisuke Maeda, CEO of Wota, for the session. Sakai shared how her brand is working to help traditional artisans in Japan stay in business.
“We are very aware that we are a Japanese brand. Often when people think of fashion, they think of Western European brands, but as a Japanese brand we think it’s important to do something different, ”Sakai said. He went on to mention that many traditional crafts are disappearing in Japan, saying that some things that were done last year suddenly can’t be done anymore and other skills are being carried out by one factory.
“Too much credit is given to brands, but we wouldn’t exist without artisans,” Sakai said.
Overall, this year’s Next Generations forum brought together more than 1,200 online attendees and over 100 in-person visitors. Invitees ranged from business executives to influencers and students.