Aug 22, 2012

Back in 1982, when I first went away to college, one of my goals was to study in Japan. It was the height of the Japanese invasion: Rei Kawakubo, Yohji Yamamoto and Issey Miyake ruled the runways; Bloomingdale’s transformed itself in a Japan promotion and yes, The Vapors’ I think I’m turning Japanese was a huge hit. Well, life is what happens when you’re making other plans, and I never quite made it. Imagine my excitement when I was invited to join a delegation from F.I.T. to connect with the Japanese Alumni Association in Tokyo. I think my bags were packed before I finished saying “yes.”

The trip was timed to coincide with Japan fashion week, as well as with the one-year anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami that devastated so much of Japan. Besides wandering through several of Tokyo’s many shopping districts (Ometasando, Harajuku, Shinjuku, Shibuya and, of course, the legendary Ginza), we got a tour of the Daimaru department store and the United Arrows flagship. (I can now truly understand why cool hunters and trend analysts from around the world come here. Japanese consumers are voracious and an understanding of aesthetics seems to be built into their DNA. I’m not saying everyone is flawlessly dressed, but when they do turn it out, it is a thing to behold. )
After the Daimaru tour, we had lunch with representatives of the Japanese association, including Yoko Ohara, coordinated the trip on their end. The next day there was a seminar at the Ritz Carlton featuring remarks by college president Dr. Joyce Brown, museum director Valerie Steele and Fast Retailing’s founder and president Tadashi Yanai, attended by fashion pros from across the nation. We completed the official portion of our visit with an FIT Alumni Association sponsored reception at the new Ralph Lauren store, where nearly 300 guests enjoyed champagne and hors d’oeuvres, while a portion of the evening’s shopping was donated to a tsunami relief fund.

The trip was a real education, and I have to thank the FIT Alumni Association for sponsoring my travels and FIT’s Dawn Duncan and Allison Oldehoff for organizing everything.

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