Where are the synergies with the core business in the switch from Amazon to Rakuten?


Rakuten, which became the chief sponsor of Fashion Week Tokyo in July 2019, is supporting the long-term vibrancy of the Japanese fashion industry and aiming to grow Rakuten Fashion, the online mall it refreshed in the autumn. We spoke to Ryo Matsumura, General Manager of the Fashion Department.

―― What will you be doing to revitalize Fashion Week?

As the chief sponsor, we will be clarifying the direction of travel. We are going to define success for the Japan Fashion Week Organization (JFW Organization), media and other stakeholders using a shared language. If we do not define it, each party may have ideas, but they will be haphazard. Once we share a common language, we will be able to answer the question of how best to go about Fashion Week.

At its heart, Fashion Week is an event for the brands of each country or region to announce their collections, which are then passed on to retailers around the world to sell them. Nevertheless, if we are to optimize the event to the era in which we live, we need to address two points: not simply finding improvements to aspects like the timing of the event or the venues but rethinking the whole concept of Fashion Week.

We live in a time when anyone can obtain and disseminate information, so there is a variety of opinions. Some say we should invite bloggers and get them to report on SNS, others say we should make it more entertaining by engaging consumers and getting them to report. What is success? There is no single answer, there are many. We are currently in talks with JFW about what we should do to achieve the event we want to see.

―― What is your objective as the chief sponsor?

There are two objectives. One is to demonstrate to the companies and brands on our platform that Rakuten is serious about the fashion sector. It feels like we have closed the distance between us and the brands since we became a sponsor, and I hope to nurture closer communication with them than we have in the past.

The other objective of our support is to ensure that new brands can emerge over a five- or ten-year span, so that the Japanese fashion industry can continue to grow healthily. In the retail sector we are in, this has a major impact on our sales prospects, so it is also about business too.

―― What is the goal of Rakuten Fashion?

Our aim is to beef up the “selling” part of our digital platform. Exploiting the data we have accumulated, we can add value with logistics by offering one-stop delivery, for example. Distribution costs the fashion sector around 700 billion yen today. We should be able to help the growth of retailers on our platform by using detailed data on changes in the market climate and so forth to work out what is selling and how much.

Specifically, the first phase is about manufacturing the right volumes and optimizing volumes by sales channel. To assist, we can apply Rakuten’s AI tools to optimize the balance of price and inventory. In Phase 2, we will create trend and actual purchasing data that can be used to guide manufacturing. This can be tailored to the characteristics of each product. If it is a designer brand, we could try to optimize it to add design touches.


Second Fashion Week coming under Rakuten title, with over 40 youth and other brands lined up


Rakuten Fashion Week TOKYO 2020A/W

Starting with the spring/summer 2020 season, Tokyo Fashion Week has Rakuten as the title sponsor, taking over from Amazon Japan.

For Rakuten, which conceives of Rakuten Fashion Week as a one-stop support for the Japanese apparel industry and its efforts to link e-commerce and brick and mortar stores, its sponsorship of the event also bolsters its own brand.

The second Rakuten Fashion Week, Autumn/Winter 2020, has already nailed down the participation of over 40 brands (as of January 10). Popular brands in youth, domestic and international boutique stores as well as veteran brands leading the fashion business in Japan will all be flaunting their latest lines.

The event takes place from 16-21 March 2020, with the Fashion Week scene centered on Shibuya Hikarie and Omotesando Hills as usual.