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Amazon tries on role of fashion incubator

Designers and 'skill' developers among beneficiaries of feared retail disruptor

This year's Amazon Fashion Week Tokyo features Asian brands from beyond Japan.

TOKYO -- Dogged by an image as a job destroyer in the U.S. for crowding out traditional retail rivals, Amazon.com is positioning itself as a supporter of up-and-coming fashion designers and brands in Japan as it further expands its global reach.

Amazon Fashion Week Tokyo opened Oct. 16 with 55 brands on display.

The American e-commerce giant kicked off Amazon Fashion Week Tokyo on Monday with 55 brands showcasing their 2018 spring-summer collections. Rising star Yohei Ohno, a Japanese brand launched in 2014, opened the event, for which Amazon Japan has become the headline sponsor. Names from Thailand and Hong Kong are among the nine overseas brands featured at the show.

Amazon Japan has also announced it will establish a studio in Tokyo's Shinagawa ward for shooting fashion photo and video for its digital marketplace. The studio, which will be one of the largest of such locations Amazon has around the world, will also open its doors to other companies and design students with the aim of cultivating the next hit items.

Support for fashion is one aspect of Amazon's growing presence as a provider of platforms for others to do businesses. Another is tech. Amazon's Echo, a voice-controlled artificially intelligent speaker launched in the U.S. in 2015, had more than 20,000 "skills" -- the equivalent of apps for smartphones -- as of September, according to media reports. Just as the debut of the iPhone a decade ago spawned app-developing startups all over the world, a new ecosystem for skills creators is now emerging.

Meanwhile, Amazon Web Services has brought down the price of such cloud-based enterprise software and data storage with its vast array of servers, which allow fledgling businesses to save on information-technology investments.

This indirect support for business creation makes is often overshadowed by the so-called Amazon effect -- the online marketplace's disruption of traditional retail. The impact can be seen in such developments as the recent bankruptcy filing by Toys "R" Us and Sears Holdings' decision to close many more stores.

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