Strange as it may seem to fashion lovers in Singapore, Japan – as a nation – does not have any sort of government sponsored support programme for the fashion industry.

Despite the seemingly endless stories and pictures of young Japanese spending big on luxury items or wearing and creating the most cutting-edge fashion, the industry itself is relatively small, difficult to break into and as much about luck and fans’ love as it is about good design.

parco next next make one's mark pop-up shop Yuji Yamamoto
Mr Yuji Yamamoto – above in the Parco Next Next RE.BIRTH Make One’s Mark pop-up shop in Singapore – has set up  RE.BIRTH, a multi-label concept store, to help young Japanese fashion designers

Which is why Mr Yuji Yamamoto – yes, he’s the son of “that” Yamamoto – set up Make One’s Mark, a multi-label concept store in 2010 “to help incubate up-and-coming Japanese and Asian designers” as part of his company RE.BIRTH.

“Japan will need a fashion future, and it can be very hard for young Japanese designers to get their foot into the door and make their mark on both the Japanese and the global fashion scene, and there isn’t any formal agency that helps them,” explained Yuji at an interview in Singapore. “That is the gap I hope RE.BIRTH will fill – to groom them and find them opportunities to be recognised.”

Yuji is in Singapore as part of the Parco Next Next annual Phenomena 2011 festival showcase in support of its young designers that fill the Parco Next Next incubation programme. After establishing RE.BIRTH, and expanding quickly, Yuji looked around for other fashion incubator progammes to work with. Much to his surprise he discovered that Parco Next Next was just about the only one available.

“That is why we are so excited to be able to work with Parco Next Next and bring these designers [six Make One’s Mark designers will be showing at Phenomenon] to Singapore – their first time out of Japan. I see a lot of similarities between what Parco Next Next is doing for young Singapore designers and what RE.BIRTH hopes to be able to do for their Japanese counterparts,” said Yuji.

Ironically, Parco Shibuya in Tokyo was the first department store to stock not only Yohji Yamamoto’s first collection, but also that of Comme des Garçons, almost 30 years ago, Yuji remarked during the interview.

It’s a future-proofing attitude the department store has continued. According to Ms Yoko Nakata, from Parco’s overseas business group, the department store still makes a point of carrying young Japanese brands at its Shibuya outlet; the success of which the company is very proud of said Yoko. She’s also in Singapore to support Yuji’s RE.BIRTH Make One’s Mark pop-up store that will be in the Millenia Walk Parco until December 26.

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parco next next make one's mark pop-up shop 6 designers 2
Six young Japanese fashion designers from Yuji Yamamoto’s RE.BIRTH incubator have pieces in the Make One’s Mark pop-shop at Parco Next Next: Hiroyuki Watanabe (above top let), detail from a KazukiiGarashii piece (above top centre), Michiko Suzuki’s Nocturne #22 (above top right), LIAISON by Kaoru Goto (above left), ARIKI by Ryota Ariki (above centre) and a convertible soft toy from CRAM JAM CHEST by Yusuke Noguchi (above right)

Six young Japanese fashion designers from Make One’s Mark – Michiko Suzuki (Nocturne #22), Ryota Ariki (ARIKI), Hiroyuki Watanabe, Yusuke Noguchi (CRAM JAM CHEST), Kaoru Goto (LIAISON) and Kazuki Igarashi (KazukiiGarashii) – will have pieces from their collections for sale.

Two of the designers – Michiko Suzuki and Ryota Ariki – will also show at the Phenomena 2011 runway event on Friday, November 11, 2011, alongside eight Singapore fashion designers from Parco Next Next – A.K.A Wayward, eve, Coupé-cousu, OwnMuse, Ready.Made, SOPHIELLE, Twenty2Seven and un-covered.

Coupé-cousu has already caught the eye of RE.BIRTH designer Michiko Suzuki; someone who’s fashion eye has been finely honed after eight years of experience under Yohji Yamamoto as the chief designer of his independent Y’s Red Label. Michiko said that the designers behind the brand had “an angle that managed to catch something different” – the label produces smart casual menswear in interesting colourways.

The Singapore designer that caught Yuji’s eye was Yumumu; a label created by artist Lu Yilin. Yuji says that part of the reason he likes the designs is because they are “still confused” but the basic bones are eye-catching and worth a second look.

Despite 20 years working for his famous fashion designer father – first on the cutting room floor and later as a director of Yohji Yamamoto Inc – and managing his increasingly famous fashion designer sister Limi Feu label, Yuji is open about his less creative bent. He is happy to help others’ get their break, and all his experience in the industry means Yuji has a good eye for the next big thing. 

Interestingly, however, Yuji says that being a good designer isn’t necessarily all it takes to be successful in the fashion world. While he agrees that a designer needs to have a very clear idea or “theme” for both their overall concept line, as well as for each seasonal collection, it was surprising to learn that he thinks “fans” of a label are the most important thing for business success.

“The most important thing is to have sales people that love the designer; if they are passionate, wear the clothes and are very happy to sell the designer to others, that often makes the difference,” explained Yuji.

He pointed out that lots of “fast fashion” brands may not be so well designed, but they are very successful, likewise fashion brands that hook up with celebrities also do well. Yuji also, politely, pointed out that these sorts of collaborations often lead to a “temporary affection” and the brand soon disappears. 

Yuji was also extremely polite about the importance of fashion incubation programmes, more particularly the involvement of Singapore’s government in supporting various fashion industry initiatives like the Star Creation competition, Audi Fashion Festival, Blueprint Tradeshow and the Asian Fashion Exchange.

“Singapore is fast earning a solid reputation as one of Asia’s notable fashion cities. The Parco Next Next incubator project is also in line with what RE.BIRTH has set out to do – to facilitate the exchange of fashion ideas and give our most promising local talents a leg-up into the business of fashion, both within Japan and further afield.”

But most importantly, young fashion designers “must not miss out on any opportunity” if they’re to become an international success, said Yuji with a smile.

The Make One’s Mark pop-up shop featuring Michiko Suzuki (Nocturne #22), Ryota Ariki (ARIKI), Hiroyuki Watanabe, Yusuke Noguchi (CRAM JAM CHEST), Kaoru Goto (LIAISON) and Kazuki Igarashi (KazukiiGarashii) will be at Parco Next Next, Millenia Walk, Level 2, until December 26. The Phenomena 2011 runway show will be held tonight, Friday, November 11, 2011, at Parco Next Next from 6pm. Shoppers interested in buying pieces of Michiko Suzuki’s Nocturne #22 collection will be able to place pre-orders until November 13. Delivery at Parco Next Next is expected to be mid-January, 2012.