The Sakura Collection fashion event started Sunday, in Osaka Prefecture, hosting models and designers from five Southeast Asian countries as they showcase the designers’ remarkable creations, mainly made from Japanese textiles on a Japanese theme.
Organizers hope the event will draw more people who are interested in Japan and help spread Japanese traditional industry around the world.
The organizing committee selected Kansai Airport in Izumisano for Sunday’s activities and Osaka Castle in Osaka for Friday. Now in its third year, the event will welcome Asian fashion icons including popular Thai actress Pearwah Nichaphat, famous Indonesian model Rinna Suri and top Malaysian model Eleen Yong.
Featuring the designs in runway shows can create specific business opportunities ― last year well-known Filipino designer Francis Libiran presented an original dress that combined an ethnic costume design from his country with a Japanese obi belt. The red dress caught the attention of a Hong Kong client.
Naomi Kida (center) wears a red dress designed by Francis Libiran during the finale of the Sakura Collection at Tokyo Tower in Minato Ward, Tokyo, October 2013.(Courtesy of Sakura Collection committee)
This year’s participants ― designers from Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam ― are expected to stimulate similar demand from clients. Organizer Noriko Tabata said, “In the future, we’d like to accept requests from overseas clients who are interested in our collection, preparing a made-to-order system to support fashion-related industries in Japan and abroad.”
In addition to professional designers, the event will host the winners of design student contests in Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. More than 500 dresses were submitted in the contests, held in those countries in September.
The Sakura Collection started in November 2012 in Osaka, with the second event held in both Tokyo and Osaka last year.
Tabata was inspired to start the Sakura Collection in 2012, when she heard about the opening of a Japan-themed shopping section in a mall in Kuala Lumpur. Through her Tokyo-based business, which publishes free papers in Asian countries to promote Japan’s rural beauty, she knew how people were struggling in traditional Japanese industries such as weaving. It was hard for them to boost sales of their products, particularly after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.
“In Malaysia, the Japanese Bon Odori dance festival is very popular. About 40,000 participate in a Bon Odori festival in the capital,” Tabata, 43, said. She immediately approached the Kuala Lumpur mall with the idea of selling yukata summer kimono, and they held a fashion show based on her idea, with models wearing kimono dresses created by Japanese designers.
Local people were impressed by the dresses, which were designed with overseas consumers in mind. Tabata thought that if Japanese products were successfully localized in other countries, it would create business opportunities for traditional Japanese industries, so she decided to organize the Sakura Collection and invite designers from other Asian countries to Japan.
One of the event’s goals is raising interest among potential tourists from Asia. Tabata hopes the visiting models and designers will serve as ambassadors, introducing Japan’s various attractions to the world through social media.
Special excursions will be prepared for the guests, including trips to Kyoto and Shimane prefectures. In Shimane Prefecture, they will visit Izumo Taisha grand shrine.
“We selected excellent destinations to inform (visitors) about Japan and offer good photo opportunities,” Tabata added.
Tabata faced various intercultural differences as she created the event from scratch, but their shared efforts have made the participants like old friends.
The memorable Libiran red dress from last year’s Sakura Collection was modeled by Naomi Kida, 26. A 2011 Miss Universe Japan finalist, Kida’s father is Japanese and her mother is Filipina.
“That was a great experience because I could be a bridge between Japan and the Philippines,” said Kida. She will support the event this year as coordinator for Filipino guests. The collection committee hopes many people, including Southeast Asian students studying in Japan, will enjoy the Sakura Collection.
The event will take place from 4-6 p.m., Oct. 31, at the square in front of Osaka Castle’s main tower. Admission is free. For more information, visit www.sakuracollection.com.
By Fumiko Endo
(The Japan News)