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'Cool Japan' struts the runways at Fashion Week in Tokyo

( Agencies ) Updated: 2013-10-18 14:41:36

Washi paper was paired with silk and fabrics layered in an echo of traditional kimonos at Japan Fashion Week, the twice-yearly celebration of an industry that plays a key role in the nation's "Cool Japan" campaign.

Underwritten by a $500-million government bankroll, the campaign - whose Cool Japan fund kicks off in November - aims to help Japanese firms promote their culture.

It has been seized upon by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as a way of restoring the halo of cool that once graced the nation that gave the world technological marvels such as the "Walkman." Japan's luster dimmed through two lost decades that saw it fall behind China economically.

At stake is a share in the booming global cultural industry, set to balloon more than 40 percent by 2020 to more than $9 trillion, economists say.

Tokyo's week-long fashion extravaganza, showcasing the Spring/Summer 2014 collections, kicked off on Monday with the number of foreign buyers nearly doubled from last year, according to Fashion Week observers.

Among those presenting was Sara Arai and her "araisara" brand, which made use of what experts say are typically Japanese fashion traits such as unusual color combinations and fabric layering in a sporty yet surreal collection called "Fantasia".

Loose jackets made of washi paper and silk in vivid greens and blues were paired with sassy shorts and flowing, floor-length sundresses printed with a sunflower motif.

"In terms of materials, traditional techniques have melded with modern technology as it has evolved, allowing us to make things unique to this time in history," Beijing-born Arai told reporters. "Through fashion, I want to tell the world about skills found only here in Asia."

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