Why the young turks are turning Japanese

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The Independent Online
The Japanese own most of British fashion. Over the past few years they have invested, in particular, in younger generation names, helping them to grow while assuring their stability.

Alexander McQueen, 27, famous for his bottom-cleavage-exposing "bumster" trousers and touted as the new designer at Givenchy, is owned by Onward Kashiyama, which has his designs manufactured in Italy and distributed around the world. So far this year, McQueen is worth pounds 700,000, a figure which should double with sales of his autumn/winter collection. His deal affords him a salary and the luxury of being able to design full-time with none of the headaches of production. Perhaps the only drawback is having to travel to Italy twice a month to check on the make-up of his designs.

Hussein Chalayan, 26, best known for his paper dresses and experimental tailoring worn by the singer Bjork, has linked up with the Japanese distributor Orizonti for his spring/summer 1997 collection, which will be shown this Saturday. He has yet to choose a manufacturing partner, but he has a selling agent in Paris, the most important fashion centre in Europe.

Clements Ribeiro, Suzanne, 28, and Inacio, 33, respectively, have a distribution deal with Earthworks, a company backed by the Japanese giants Toyota. Consequently, the duo have 35 stockists in Japan. They are also cutting deals with the high-street chain store Dorothy Perkins, for whom they have designed capsule ranges, and they are the latest winner of the Absolut Vodka sponsorship award, worth pounds 23,000.

Fabio Piras, 33, a newcomer and recent St Martin's graduate, has Renown Look behind him in the Far East, which has already found him 22 stockists over there. Like Chalayan, he needs to choose a manufacturing partner soon if he is to expand successfully.

It is not just the younger arm of British fashion that has found its partners in the Japanese. Margaret Howell, who established her name in the mid-Seventies, has worked with the Japanese conglomerate Anglobal for the past 10 years, and five years ago Anglobal became the major shareholder in the company. Margaret Howell has 40 outlets in Japan.

Paul Smith, well-loved over here, is hugely popular in Japan. His label even outsells Chanel, making him the largest-selling designer in the Far East. Paul Smith licensing deals in Japan alone are worth pounds 82m.

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