First Encounters at the Speed of Light

A trek through Rakuten Fashion Week TOKYO, A/W ‘23

My drink! The shallow plastic cup can barely contain its contents as the Boeing 777 shakes mid-air. It’s a ten-hour flight from Doha, Qatar to Narita Airport and I’m hoping “Miss Scarlet & The Duke” will keep me engaged with her sleuthing until we reach our final destination.

Following the safe landing we queue, then we queue again, and queue some more. Yet, there’s a distinct a lack of chaos or frustration. The process is slow but efficient. The train ride to our hotel is comfortable. There’s no need to fuss over seats or haul our luggage down rows. We leave them near the doors and lock them in place. Seats are assigned.

Recollecting our summer travels in Europe, I’m anticipating a long wait and extended chit chat at check-in but we have the keys to our room in hand within seconds. I can feel the tension in my shoulders ease. In the morning, we’ll head over to Shibuya Hikarie for the opening ceremony of Rakuten Fashion Week Tokyo, #RakutenFWT, A/W ‘23.

Our daily agenda consists of three to four shows. From what little I know about fashion week (this is my first one) and what I do know about myself, I brace for impact. In part, the overwhelm comes from the strength of each show where you’re immersed as an actor in fashion theatre. We congregate and watch other humans embodying a portrait of the designer’s liking. It’s not just a sketch or moving images on a screen, but one body after another, convincing you that the world as the designer sees it, does indeed exist. 

To be the orchestrator of this show, designers pay a price. Time given to bricolage and digest literature, music, movies, moments, and daydreams in no man’s land. Of course, money too. Fashion shows on average can cost between $100,000 to $300,000 to produce. Without the support of institutions and corporate sponsors, creatives won’t get the chance to follow their dreams. 
By Day Three, I’m reminded of a scene from “Confess, Fletch” which I’ve watched twice now because the movie selection on the Baku flight was atrocious. Fletch, a journalist looking to exonerate himself from suspicions of murder, interviews a vapid interior designer under false pretenses. In the midst of his questioning, he’s frustrated by her ignorance and slides in an underhanded slight, “Don’t you just hate how poor people can’t afford beautiful things?”

Inundated by beautiful things, I’m nearing a point where I’m desensitized to their rarity and lose touch with normality. While I’m not as critical as Fletch in thinking beautiful objects are solely status symbols, I do wonder: When you have so many dazzling first encounters, so quickly—how do you process it?

Back home and given the luxury of time, I researched and rewatched shows over the past two weeks. We were lucky and grateful to attend 21 in-person presentations and one showroom visit of the 58 brands that participated. I hope you’ll follow Le Fool’s journey through each one, as I share with you some impressions and musings not quite at the speed of light but perhaps more elucidated.

One designer, one day at a time. 

Jee Young Park