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Ryo Matsumura of Japan's Rakuten: 'We would like to represent French designers who are not yet known'

By Florence Julienne


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Business |Interview

Ryo Matsumura (left), managing executive officer of the Japanese e-commerce platform Rakuten Group, and Hiroshi Komoda, executive director of Japan Fashion Week. Credits: F. Julienne

In past seasons of Rakuten Fashion Week Tokyo, the event’s headline sponsor, tech firm and e-commerce retailer Rakuten, has made it known of its intentions to secure stronger ties with the influential fashion weeks of the West. During Tokyo’s FW24 fashion week, for example, Paris Fashion Week’s official tradeshow partner, Tranoï, announced it would be entering Japan with its first Tranoï Tokyo event, set to be held simultaneously to the next edition of Rakuten FWT in September.

For the actual fashion week, however, efforts to bolster local Japanese names and support their launch into the international market have become a core part of FWT’s mission. To build on this, Rakuten and Japan Fashion Week Organisation (JFWO) have set about physically bringing their brands to Paris in a bid to back their participants. This initiative continued for the SS25 season of Paris Fashion Week Men’s, during which Rakuten and JFWO held a Tokyo showroom on the city’s rue des Filles du Calvaire. Here, FashionUnited spoke to managing executive officer of Rakuten Group, Ryo Matsumura, and executive director of JFWO, Hiroshi Komoda, on ties to France and plans for the Japanese market.

Can you tell us about the role of the Tokyo showroom held during Paris Fashion Week?

Ryo Matsumura: The aim of Japan Fashion Week, which takes place in Tokyo, is to select young Japanese talents to exhibit in Paris, in this showroom which has been held four times a year for the past 10 years. For this edition, we are presenting six young menswear designers who won the Tokyo Fashion Award 2024: Kazuho Arai, Tsukasa Takabayashi, Kota Gushiken, Shinya Kozuka, Shimpei Kajiura and Soshi Otsuki. Rakuten delegates the organisation of the Tokyo showroom to a Japanese company that employs freelance French staff.

What is the main target market for exhibiting in the showroom?

Matsumura: Over half of our clientele comes from Asia (China, South Korea, Hong Kong, etc.). They come to Paris to buy Japanese fashion. This makes the French capital a hub for fashion designers. Everyone meets here.

Are French boutiques receptive to Japanese fashion?

Hiroshi Komoda: Yes, they are. A boutique like Rendez-Vous Store (rue Charlot, Paris 3ᵉ) is a good example.

Tokyo showroom Credits: F. Julienne

What about Rakuten Fashion, the e-commerce site dedicated to the fashion sector?

Matsumura: In 2012, Rakuten developed Rakuten Fashion, which comprises both brands and multi-brand retailers. We either buy the collections or work on a consignment basis. We want to develop the fashion sector even further.

What measures has Rakuten put in place to combat counterfeiting, a major problem on the internet?

Matsumura: The Rakuten Ichiba platform has established cooperative relationships with various brands since 2012, currently collaborating with over 1,750 labels and conducting daily investigations into products suspected of being imitations. If the sale of counterfeit products is confirmed, strict measures are taken.

How do Japanese consumers behave towards online commerce?

Matsumura: Online sales increased significantly during the Covid crisis, as all physical stores were closed. After this period, the Japanese returned to the shops, but the enthusiasm for e-commerce is very real. In the second quarter of 2023, Rakuten's annual gross sales for the fashion business were 1.1 trillion yen, a 9 percent year-on-year increase.

What is the "by R" project developed by Rakuten?

Matsumura: "by R" supports young Japanese designers in increasing their visibility, particularly through the organisation of their fashion shows. Until now, "by R" was limited to Japan Fashion Week, but the next step is to establish a connection between Paris and Tokyo. Thus, the Masu fashion show (which took place on 19 June 2024) is not part of the project, but it marks the beginning of this ambition.

Are you in contact with the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode?

Komoda: Yes, a meeting took place during Men's Fashion Week in June 2024.

Are you looking for new French brands, both for the website and to showcase at Japan Fashion Week?

Matsumura: The site started with Japanese brands, but we also distribute French labels: agnès b., APC or Maison Kitsuné. In a second phase, we would like to represent young French designers who are not yet known.

Komoda: A few local brands participate during our own fashion week. For example, Maison Simone.

Tokyo showroom Credits: F. Julienne

Is eco-responsibility, particularly in terms of materials, important in Japan?

Komoda: The whole world is committed to sustainability. To create their collections, designers like Yohji Yamamoto, Issey Miyake or Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garçons started with textile research. Japan is full of artisans who are specialised in their fields and have conquered the world with their know-how. For example, 40 percent of the fabrics used by Hermès come from Japan. The new generation is following tradition.

We have a craft tradition, but we also have very advanced technology. The combination of the two allows us to create new things. Young designers are trying to use national materials, if only for reasons of short circuits, but, from a global perspective and for mass production, they also source from other countries.

What does Made in France represent in the eyes of Japanese customers? Is it a purchasing driver?

Komoda: It is a reassuring factor.

What are the expectations of Japanese customers in terms of French offerings?

Komoda: We know that quality and luxury are always present, but the style is rather traditional. The challenge, to penetrate our market, is to modernise French ready-to-wear while maintaining its qualities in terms of eco-responsibility and style.

Tokyo showroom Credits: F. Julienne
About Rakuten:
Rakuten Ichiba is one of the largest online shopping malls in Japan. The parent company hosts around 57,000 shops (as of March 2024), selling around 450 million items (as of May 2024) of all types, from everyday and food products to fashion, cosmetics and home decor. In 2023, Rakuten Group's gross merchandise volume was 6.0 trillion yen, a volume higher than that of all Japanese department stores combined, which was 5.4211 trillion yen (source: Japanese Department Stores Association). Rakuten Fashion Luxury was created in October 2020 to promote luxury and designer brands and their products. The Designers & International page followed in November 2020, then Rakuten Fashion Cosmetics in March 2022.

This article originally appeared on FashionUnited.FR. Translation via AI and edit by Rachel Douglass.

Read more:
Paris Fashion Week
Rakuten Fashion Week Tokyo