TOKYO: From a phoenix-themed collection by a Japanese designer who has clothed Lady Gaga to touches of traditional Mongolian decorations, designers showing at Japan Fashion Week set their sights firmly on Asia and its huge market.
Chinese consumers have become the world's leading buyers of luxury goods and account for one quarter of this market globally with demand growing, according to a report by consulting firm Bain & Co.
The fashion extravaganza showcasing the autumn and winter collections of 2013/14 kicked off at the weekend but Japanese brands took to the stage on Monday with Masanori Morikawa and his self-directed label, "Christian Dada".
Morikawa has created several pieces for American pop star Lady Gaga including a pink dress reminiscent of an origami crane for her 2012 "Born This Way Ball" tour.
This time he turned to Asia for inspiration with an edgy, androgynous collection titled "Fenghuang," which is Chinese for the mythical bird phoenix, pairing long, loose pants with richly embroidered lace on shirt sleeves for men and women.
Leather pants and jackets mingled with down-panelled trousers and shirts in plain, solid colours of black, white, red, blue and gold, which Morikawa said represented the nature of the phoenix.
"There's also the idea that the phoenix contains within itself both the male and the female, so we took this concept of fusion for the collection," Morikawa told reporters.
Asian influences came to the fore on Sunday as well as Mongolian designer Ariunaa Surenjav mixed modern designs with traditional raised forms on the shoulders and bunched sleeves.
"That part of the clothing design where the material goes up on the shoulder ... comes from the tradition in old Mongolia, where the local people who were noble and respected had that design," said Surenjav.
A NOD TO CHINA?
Although Morikawa said taking a Chinese title for the collection was just a reference to Chinese mythology and not a nod to the huge potential Chinese market, other designers were more open about their goals.
Conny Groenewegen, a Dutch designer who led off the runway on Sunday with clothing heavily influenced by Japanese designers, said her ambitions in Asia do not end with Japan.
"I would be very much interested to visit Shanghai and present my work over there, because I think that it is moving very fast," she told Reuters. "It's like a big youth culture over there and it has also a big, very rich history."
Although growth in China slowed last year, Bain is still forecasting growth of 4-6 percent a year for the global luxury market through 2015, after growth of 10 percent in 2012 to about $280 billion, largely driven by Chinese consumers.
With 1.3 billion consumers, many with a strong inclination for expensive brands that scream status, China remains a driving force in the luxury market.
Japan Fashion Week continues until March 24 with names such as Vivienne Tam and Hiroko Koshino also taking part.