For Japanese designers, overcoming preconceptions as well as meeting them is one of the biggest challenges to reaching a western market. Toga straddles both sides of the conundrum. For Western consumers, luxury fashion is an exciting but relatively predictable landscape. The mantra tends to read –  Love your European brands and champion the inclusion ofprodigious talent from further afield. Those imports that have made a splash, from Virgil Abloh to — are lauded and integrated (Abloh achieved fame …) It’s harder, for multiple reasons, for consumers to get a finger on the pulse of luxury that is not Euro or American made. One of the those reasons is geography. Despite the diversification of the fashion landscape, the high street and even the internet is a narrow world where shopping experiences are controlled by supply chains, demographics and import/export charges. That ensures that your shopping options will be largely dictated by huge brands that have positioned themselves appropriately. “It’s one of the biggest challenges to non European and American labels and designers,” says —- —-. “Positioning is dependent on successful marketing campaigns for overseas brands. Unless they have the budget or backing to pull this off, they won’t be successful. Word of mouth or smaller runs don’t work because the brands are too remote and they don’t have people overseas to carry a collection from A-Z.” It’s not a problem unique to smaller brands, with marquee labels like Burberry also keen to establish themselves in highly competitive Asian markets, yet frustrated by trading restrictions and the long after effects of Covid in that country. “of course, for Brands like Burberry, it’s frustrating when red tape limits access to emerging markets. But for smaller foreign brands the issue is one of just becoming known, getting a seat at the table. And for many, that’s never going to happen.” Lack of reach is not just a shame for brands of course. Customers also are increasingly sold short in terms of brands they can get access to, and while the internet provides access to shows — — they’re only likely to subsribe to sites where they know they can but the stuff. It leaves the likes of —- and —- in a difficult position, influential in their own country, clearly making interesting and experiemtal clothing, but unable to make a bigger splash in the ultra competive and expensive worlf of fashion. — sees it more philosophically – “It’s the same for any business in any country. Budget and leaverage are key. We’re lucky that at least we have interest from overseas. Fashion is such a visual medium, and that’s its strength, but most brands have to play within excepted parameters.” A few brands have, of course, made the leap successfully – — brand Toga has been a mainstay on the Japanese scene for over a decade but has recently started to shw at NYFW. The key to international status is, again, multi-pronged. Longeivity on the domestic scene helps, as does an agile and dogged marketing agency with international reach, but product is the essence. Toga has somewhat straddled a middle ground between tradional Japanses looks and western imagery that has – says — helped it to flourish in other countries. For foreign brands, a usp is vital, and it helps if the designer has worked in Europe before, this establishes them, lets the international industry know that they’re serious, and also establishes their niche in advance. In many ways, where designers and creative come from is irrelevant – the whole scene is so eclectic – but it’s what an individual can bring to the scene, aligned to an incredible work ethic. For the likes of — and — then, the big fish in a small pond conundrum isn’t gonna change any times soon. It does mean, however, that Japan can boast a domestic fashion market of great strength and durability. “because of the country’s location and language, its goods, whether that’s music, film or fashion” don’t easily assimilate into the western mainstream. This is a weakness, but also a strength, because tastes are not influences by what ‘others’ think. So you have a really strong strain of intelligent, well crafted fashion, influenced by the street.

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