The talk event “Has the role of fashion ended?” was held on Jan 23 in collaboration with the conference “Can we update fashion?” and Shibuya Publishing Booksellers.

The event invited Editor Masanobu Sugatsuke and Akira Miura of WWD with Daijiro Mizuno as the MC.

“In comparison to the remarkable advancements of information technology and technological innovation when it comes to manufacturing, it seems that fashion has not progressed. We will ask Mr. Sugatsuke and Mr. Miura about their thoughts on how people will interact with fashion and where fashion is headed,” explained Mr. Mizuno.

“Marc Jacobs, the designer for Louis Vuitton since 1997, resigning last October left a great impression on me. Mr. Jacobs decided to leave his role at a big name to pursue designs for his own brand. Starting off with Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel in 1985 and Nicolas Ghesquiere in replacement of Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton to Jonathan William Anderson, who was appointed as creative director for Loewe last year, hired designers are becoming mercenaries to top brands,” said Mr. Miura.

“H&M teaming up with big names such as COMME des GARCONS, Martin Margiela and Isabel Marant seems like a way to prove to the consumers that H&M has received recognition from its collaboration partners. This may be beneficial to brands like H&M, but not to the brands being featured. When I asked Rei Kawakubo about the reason behind the team-up, she told me ‘I have 500 employees that I have to look after. But I won’t do it again.’”

“The status quo is that only the luxury brands and fast fashion brands are doing well. Those in the middle are completely left out. Seeing the endless lines of people in front of low-priced sundries stores ASOKO and Flying Tiger Copenhagen seems to show where consumers are headed nowadays. I worry about where Japanese fashion markets are headed,” said Mr. Miura with regards to the situation of consumers.

“As Miuccia Prada said, ‘what you wear is how you present yourself to the world- especially today, when human contacts are so quick. Fashion is instant language,’ fashion used to be the primary communication tool, which has now been replaced with SNS. Due to the popularity of SNS, you gain the first impression of someone through their online profiles, even before you meet them in person. The necessity to present oneself through fashion is no longer prevalent. Because of this, people seek for something with style to create their own stories. That’s one reason for people to be excited about sundries stores,” added Mr. Sugatsuke.

“There are three ways in which fashion can remain. 1) Commoditize like Uniqlo to create products such as Heattech and fleeces, 2) utilize like sportswear to enhance functionality and practicality and 3) conceptualize like COMME des GARCONS to attract a strong fan base. The leader of sales today is the foods industry. Food is the core of life. Those who work in the fashion industry need to know that fashion is being left behind. This awareness will lead to creations of stronger products.”

“I think the popularity of fast fashion will stop at one point and will shift to semi-order custom styles such as the Freemans Sporting Club.”

To this Mr. Miura responded, “The Tohoku Earthquake in 2011 didn’t have much of an effect on fashion. It was more the financial crisis in 2008 which made an impact. On a personal level, I feel that our reliance on mobile phones after the millennium is what changed consumer trends greatly. The amount we spend on mobile devices left less money to be spent on clothes.” In answer to questions posed by the audience he added, “It’s true that fashion is always five years or so behind in comparison to everything else. Last year was the beginning of the emergence of social media for fashion.”