SHOWCASING Filipinos’ ingenuity and creativity, eight local fashion brands debuted their latest collections, which stemmed from a pioneering mentorship program, during the just-concluded showroom exhibition in Lifork Harajuku in Tokyo, Japan.
From July 7 to 9, communication-solutions company H3O Fashion Bureau and LIT Fashion Consultancy presented the designs of each of the homegrown fashion brands—Bagasao, Feanne, HA.MÜ, J Makitalo, Jill Lao, Kelvin Morales, Lorico, and Neil Felipp—to prospective Japanese buyers, press, and influencers.
The three-day event culminated PHx Tokyo where market specialists Jason Lee Coates and Hirohito Suzuki of H3O and Tetta Ortiz-Mattera of LIT Fashion equipped the participating designers with vital skills in marketing, branding, and the rudiments of Japanese retailing.
Spearheaded by the PHx Fashion Group and the Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (Citem), PHx Tokyo is an eight-month program that was conducted online due to the ensuing Covid-19 pandemic.
“Alongside aesthetic, of course, there was always the commercial component that they had to consider. Under the watchful and expert eye of Jason, Hiro, and Tetta, our PHx Tokyo designers were also able to tailor their sartorial voices for the discerning Japanese market,” said Citem Executive Director Pauline Suaco-Juan.
While the Japanese fashion industry, which accounts for billions of US dollars in sales annually, is one of the best platforms worldwide for a young brand to launch, it also proves to be inscrutable and impenetrable, according to Coates.
“Japanese buyers are always fascinated to look at new brands. So hopefully we can have that knowledge with respect to quality, with respect to cut and fit, with respect to fabrications and pricing,” he said.
To cater to them at the best of their ability, Matera emphasized the need for local designers, who know their design aesthetic and market, to pivot and understand that what they know in the Philippines does not necessarily apply to the Japanese market.
“So the mentoring program addresses that,” she said. “The designers we are working with are very receptive. They acknowledge that what they already know is not the end-all and be-all of fashion. And there’s also the mutual respect between us and designers.”
Feanne, one of the mentees of the program, shared that PHx Tokyo arrived at an ideal point in her career. She said: “Having been self-taught and self-directed for so many years, I feel that structured guidance from industry veterans could help me take my creative career to the next level.”
PHx Tokyo was developed from a 2019 iteration of the PHx Fashion Conference, an initiative by Seph Bagasao, Esme Palaganas, and Trickie Lopa in coordination with the Philippine Trade Training Center to spark conversations on how the Philippine fashion industry could move forward.
The program and its participants were introduced in the October 2020 launch of FAME+, Citem’s digital platform for the country’s home, fashion, and lifestyle sectors.
PHx Tokyo then commenced in November, with one-on-one sessions with designers and a different topic every month until June 2021.
To date, designers involved here have produced a 292-strong and Japanese market-ready collection of apparel and accessories. All PHx Tokyo brands are also housed on FAME+.