The fashion of the Heisei era: Tokyo Girls Collection grows into huge entertainment event

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Models walk on the runway during the Tokyo Girls Collection event at the Yokohama Arena in March this year in Yokohama.

By Yoko Tanimoto / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterThe Tokyo Girls Collection (TGC) started in 2005 with the theme of introducing Japan’s real clothes to the world. It is Japan’s largest fashion event to show “real clothes” girls and young women want to wear right now. It is held twice a year. Real clothes refers to everyday clothes of practical value that contrast with impractical clothes with high creativity. Now, the event boasts enormous popularity among young women in their 20s and younger.

On March 31, the 26th TGC was held at the Yokohama Arena in Yokohama. The venue was filled with excited junior high school and high school girls who were dressed up, some of them wearing the same clothes as friends.

On the runway in the center of the venue, models not only walked with brisk strides as at conventional fashion shows, but also waved their arms and threw presents to the audience. Every time they did so, big cheers arose from the audience.  

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    Booths of cosmetics makers and other companies at the venue of the TGC in March this year in Yokohama

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    People line up to enter the TGC held in Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture, in April 2014.

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    Models wave their arms during the grand finale of the TGC in Tokyo in March 2011.

The venue opened at 1 p.m. and the event lasted for six and a half hours from 3 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. On a tight schedule, the TGC prepared various events such as live shows by professional singers and presentations by popular actors to advertise their films and TV programs. At the venue, booths were set up by cosmetics makers and food companies, and free samples and other items were distributed to visitors.

A total of about 32,200 people visited the TGC, with nearly all of them using smartphones to share information via their social media accounts. The event was broadcast on free calling and messaging application Line, where a total of 1.05 million people viewed it. Today, the TGC has gone beyond a fashion show and grown into a huge entertainment event that is participated in by consumers and helps sales promotion.

“We wanted to bring about a revolution in the fashion industry,” said Noriyoshi Murakami, president of W Tokyo Inc., which has been involved in the TGC since the first installment and still plans and produces it.

However, at first, people in the fashion industry criticized him, with some saying, “It will make no sense to hold a fashion show featuring real clothes.”

Traditional fashion shows held in Paris, Milan and other overseas cities are participated in by renowned high-end brands. Such shows target buyers and other people related to the fashion industry and introduce clothes to be sold at stores from six months later.

On the other hand, the TGC is participated in by fashion brands targeting young women and operating stores in fashion buildings in Tokyo’s Shibuya district and other places. It introduces clothes that are reasonably priced and immediately available. In fact, clothes worn by models can also be bought online via mobile phones.

The innovative operation of the fashion show caught the hearts of modern fashion-conscious young women who enjoy dressing up in a realistic manner. Subsequently, high-end brands followed in its footsteps, and the sales method called “See Now Buy Now,” which allows consumers to immediately buy clothes they see at fashion shows, became widespread.

Sticking to trends of the time

There are other reasons why the TGC is popular among young generations. Usually, for apparel brands and popular singers, the longer they are in business, the older their fans become. However, the TGC has been supported by young people for more than 10 years since its start. As for the reason, Murakami explained, “Every time the TGC is held, we invest ¥300 million in the event, review participating brands and performers, and stick to the trends of the time.”

Prof. Asuka Watanabe of Kyoritsu Women’s Junior College, who is familiar with modern fashion issues, said: “Not only did the TGC overturn the traditional concept of a fashion show, but it also offers a place where fashion-conscious girls gather together from across the country, becoming a place to deliver the next trends. The strategy of combining information technology and fashion has made the event more influential, also thanks to the spread of social media.”

The influence of the TGC is now extending overseas, and it participated in the Cool Japan policy advocated by the government. It has held events in Paris, Beijing and Singapore, too.

In May this year, it held a fashion event at the U.N. Headquarters in New York, because the United Nations focused on the TGC’s high degree of penetration among and influence on young generations. It also has huge economic effects. Local governments are actively trying to attract the event. As part of a town revitalization project, Okinawa Prefecture hosted the TGC in 2010, the first time the event was held in a regional city. Since then, the TGC has held events in various parts of the country.

Keiko Yamada, who authored a book on the economics of the event, said, “While young girls have thought fashion shows were beyond their reach, the TGC has made such shows familiar to ordinary girls.” In addition, it cooperates and collaborates with various media and businesses such as credit card companies, housing companies and mail-order companies. “The TGC also attracts attention from all businesses and industries that hope to attract young women as a place for promoting their products and services,” Yamada added.

Models comment on TGC

Meanwhile, the TGC has produced a large number of models and entertainers. Yu Yamada, who has participated in the TGC since the first installment, and Karina, who has participated since the fifth installment, are representative figures of the event. They talked about the attractiveness of the event and other issues.

“The TGC is special to me. It is the only fashion show where I can directly feel the enthusiasm and reactions of the audience at such a big venue,” Yamada said. “People visiting the TGC see not only clothes but also models.”

“For young people, the TGC is a place they yearn for. I think that not only does it entertain visitors, but it also helps them nurture their dreams such as working in the fashion industry in the future,” she added.

Karina recalled, “When I participated in the TGC for the first time, I was warmly welcomed, which surprised and impressed me.”

“On the runway, I had various experiences such as acting in accordance with brands’ images and performing with singer Namie Amuro,” she said. “I also participated in the TGC held in Beijing and the fashion show held at the U.N. Headquarters in New York in May. The TGC is a place to show the rest of the world the power and culture of Japanese girls. I will be happy if I can make some contribution to it.”   Speech

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