Interview & Report

Janelle Okwodu

Janelle Okwodu

MBFWT 2016 S/S invited guest interview vol.3

VOGUE.COM Contributing Fashion News Writer

During the period of the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week TOKYO 2016 S/S, Janelle Okwodu, VOGUE.COM, contributing fashion news writer, visited Japan for the first time, by invitation from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

Janelle Okwodu has followed fashion shows around the world. We asked on various topics, including her impression of Fashion Week and street fashion in Tokyo, and what is expected of future fashion media.


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This is your first visit to Japan. What is your impression of Japanese fashion?

I think Japanese fashion is very innovative. ‘ISSEY MIYAKE’ and ‘UNDER COVER’ are very popular among my colleagues. I’ve been also curious about ‘FACETASM’ .

I am interested in Japanese denim brands as well, because recently denim has been trendy in New York.


How popular are Japanese brands in New York?

People in the fashion industry are, of course, well aware of Japanese brands, and consider them as trend leaders. The young people, especially in their 20s, have a strong interest in Japan. Men are mainly interested in street fashion, whereas women, in trendy fashion. Many people in New York respect Japanese fashion designers who had been active in the ‘80s. There are bookstores where people can find books written about Japanese fashion, so they can also learn from those books.


In ‘VOGUE.COM’, snapshots taken on the streets in Tokyo during the fashion week are introduced. What is your impression of Tokyo street fashion?

I think it is very creative. I saw a wide range of fashion, from Gothic to hip-hop, and the styles are aggressive and fearless. For example, in Paris the classic style that is respectful of tradition is the mainstream, whereas in London and New York, I have an impression that people dress down practical items stylishly. But I think there is a different appeal in Tokyo, that those cities don’ have.


How do you see the recent fashion trends worldwide?

As an overall trend, conservative styles had continued for a while, but in the last few years, I see more styles expressing individuality, while enjoying materials and colors. Apart from the fashion trend, now-a-days, because of the internet, people can check fashion from around the world, and I feel international influence spreads worldwide easier now.


Is there anything special ‘VOGUE.COM’ is focusing on in recent years?

We wish to increase articles on fashion weeks around the world. Readers are of course interested in fashion shows of top brands, but at the same time, they also want to know about unknown designers in Tokyo, Stockholm, and Copenhagen, and want information on what styles are in.


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Various kinds of media and communication terminals such as SNS, video and smartphone have been widely spread, and information environments has changed dramatically. What kind of role do you think is being expected of ‘VOGUE.COM’ as a media?

We are committed to respond to readers’ interests and needs. Visual contents would be one example. We deliver visual contents, such as music videos made in collaboration with models and rappers. Since internet is capable of delivering information immediately, we have the advantage of posting information of fashion shows right away. At the same time, we are able to collect various kinds of information in detail, from viewers’ nationalities to their viewing time. I think it is important to analyze these data and continuously meet reader’s needs.


In recent years, each brand and shop has become able to deliver the information through Internet and SNS. What do you think is important for them to keep in mind, when approaching their fans?

The most important thing for brands and shops is to truly grasp the interest of target customers and fans. I also think it is important to have a clear objective towards the information they are delivering. Internet users instantly decide whether to go to the next page or not. Therefore, they need to consider what is required in order to attract the users in such a short period of time.


We also would like to ask about the Fashion Week TOKYO. Among the shows you’ve seen, was there anything that stands out?

The show of ‘PLASTICTOKYO’ was impressive. I liked the punk style with masks and pins. The shows of ‘mintdesigns’, ‘FACTOTUM’ and ‘MIHARA YASUHIRO’ were very beautiful as well. I also found the direction aspects creative, including the lighting and set designs. All-in-all, I was very impressed.


What did you think of the mood of the Fashion Week as a whole?

I was surprised to see the visitors waiting for the show to begin very quietly, because in New York, it’s always chaos before the show. I found this quietness admirable. The visitors were not just quiet, because I could feel their growing expectation towards the show at the same time.


What do you think is important when conveying Tokyo fashion to the world?

This is my personal opinion, but I hope that talents born in Japan, are raised, cultivated and developed in Japan. It is important to set up an environment that enables those talents to be widely known to the world. The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) helps to develop young talent, and provide support and advice in terms of business, utilizing its network. It is important to guide talented young people, so they don’t get lost.

Do you think that Japanese young designers should go abroad to make presentations?

Not necessarily. Of course, it might be a good idea to participate in showrooms and events in Paris and New York, and promote themselves to buyers and editors. But even if they don’t go abroad so often, I think it is surely possible to raise awareness by selling their items at shops in Tokyo, or through blogs and SNS.


Did you visit any shops in Tokyo during this visit?

My schedule was tight, and I hardly had time to visit the shops. But, as there are people who come from abroad just because they want to see the shops in Japan, I am sure there are many attractive department stores, select shops, and secondhand clothes shops in Japan. Moreover, for those people who come from abroad for shopping, I think the Tokyo only limited items that big name brands offer, is also a big appeal.


How do you think overseas brands view the Japanese market?

I think every brand views the Japanese market as being very attractive. I think that Japanese consumers not only accept expensive products, but also attach importance to the quality of products. That’s why many brands placed the Japanese market in high regards, and have opened stores.


Lastly, is there anything you have left undone during this visit?

I definitely want to go shopping more the next time. Apart from fashion, I want to actually see traditional Japanese gardens, which I have only seen in photos. Also, I hope to visit Ghibli Museum someday. I have many things undone, so I wish to come back to Japan.



Interview by YUKI HARADA

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