Last month Will.i.am, the hip-hop bohemian-turned-dancehall-music-captain, unveiled his video for #thatPOWER (embedding disabled), a track from his new album #willpower. It was shot mostly in Japan earlier this year and features will.i.am and his posse dancing through some recognizable and some more obscure architectural landmarks. Oh, and it also features a hologram of Justin Bieber.
Will.i.am dancing under the seizure-inducing kaleidoscope mirrors of Tokyu Plaza Omotesando.
Will.i.am dancing in front of Florian Claar’s “Fragment No.5” at Tokyo Midtown
Will.i.am dancing in front of Tokyo Big Sight, Japan’s largest convention center.
Will.i.am dancing in front of a ubiquitous Japanese street lined with pubs.
Will.i.am dancing in front of “The Eye of Shinjuku,” created by Yoshihiko Miyashita in 1969.
Seasoned YouTube connoisseurs will recognize the slow-motion dancing style to be that of mixed-martial-artist-turned-buddhist-internet-dancing-sensation Genki Sudo. It’s certainly a sign of the times when hip hop artists are turning to Asians for dance lessons.
When the video premiered, many were quick to jump the gun, assuming that Genki Sudo and his dance unit World Order had indeed given lessons, collaborating with the U.S. pop stars on their dance moves. No one believed that will.i.am had the audacity and gall to not only appropriate Sudo’s moves but to perform them in Japan. However, a statement by the group denied all rumors of any prior agreement, prompting publications like tvgroove.com to edit their article and issue an apology. So I guess will.i.am did indeed have the audacity and gall?
In a tweet, Sudo also wrote, “It looks a lot like World Order (LOL). Thanks for using, Justin & Will…”
May 6, 2013 2 Comments
“When people have too many choices, they make bad choices”
It was an exciting day in Japan’s fashion industry 2 months ago when Thom Browne and his characteristically unique American style arrived, officially, in Japan in the form of a flagship store in Aoyama. Located on the posh Miyuki-dori and surrounded by luminaries like Acne Studios and Mackintosh, the grey, windowless, marble-clad fortress is Browne’s first foray overseas. The only window, in fact, as a narrow, intimidating entrance.
The 3-story structure is a full-service boutique offering menswear (1st floor) womenswear (2nd floor) and a made-to-order room in the basement where you can sip a 1996 vintage Dom Pérignon from a tumbler while your measurements are taken. And the style of the building is consistent with the overall theme of his original shop: a late 1950s – early 1960s office where Don Draper types were running around with tie clips and briefcases making business deals. Browne’s vision came to life thanks to Masamichi Katayama from Wonderwall.
Browne attributes his dapper look to his father and his chic, effortless, “midcentury cool” design philosophy may very well be best summed up by this simple quote: “When people have too many choices, they make bad choices.”
To complete the continental mid-century look are a series of furniture hand-picked from shops like Jacques Adnet, Dunbar, Maison Jansen and Gio Ponti.
It’s no surprise that Browne chose Tokyo for his first overseas flagship store. While going from near-obscurity to appearing in Wes Anderson films, runways in Milan and being selected by Michelle Obama to design her dress to be worn to her husband’s inauguration, Browne was quickly gaining momentum in Japan.
In 2001 Browne left Club Monaco to launch his own label. But by 2010, when Browne was still working out of a tiny, appointment-only shop, his sales in Japan were rivaling his biggest success story – Bergdorf Goodman. In 2011 Browne also collaborated with Rei Kawakubo at Comme des Garcons.
Celebrities and models like Kiko Mizuhara, Kankuro Nakamura, Verbal and Takumi Saito turned out for the opening where Browne noted that he hopes to create an actual experience, rather than just a retail experience. He also spoke of the importance of this Tokyo flagship as a hub for Thom Browne New York style in Asia and the rest of the world.
Attendees had the chance to pick up a limited design button-down (50,400 yen) inscribed with the opening line of one of Browne’s favorite poems: The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
May 6, 2013 No Comments
Makoto Tanijiri and his design firm Suppose Design Office have created a new office space in Shibuya for Zappallas, a provider of mobile content like horoscopes, games and e-commerce solutions. The company has been on a steep incline of expansion ever since it was founded – miraculously – at the height of the dot-com bubble in March 2000. After expanding, and then expanding again, the company finally outgrew its digs in Ebisu and decided to find a new space for their close-to-200 employees.
In order to foster a creative and inspiring workspace, the company merged their previous open, park-like layout and applied a DIY theme that manifests itself things like furniture and lighting. Plenty of exposed plywood (bookshelves, coatracks, lighting) and makeshift tables help break the mold of the typical Japanese office space.
A porch-like space encourages engagement and freedom. Sometimes people pitch tents here and work inside when they need to concentrate. There’s even a “Mother’s Working Room” where moms can bring their kids to the office and work without disturbing coworkers.
May 3, 2013 1 Comment
The Japanese musical trio Clammbon, known for their quirky, jazzy, upbeat tunes, released a music video late last year titled “Rough & Laugh.” The music video, illustrated with fantastic bursts of color and abstract shapes flying in and out the screen, is the work of TYMOTE, an 8-member Tokyo-based design studio with the tagline “pirates of design.” The MV was supposed to be a limited offer, airing just during the month of November, at which point it would be vaulted, never to see the light of day again.
But feedback was so enormous that those involved decided to throw it back up on vimeo. So here it is.
The track was originally created for Shirokuma Café, a popular animated series about a polar bear who runs a café. How great is that!?
May 2, 2013 No Comments
Sixteen different kanji do a little dance together in this animation that uses the Japanese characters as ideograms. The kanji for objects like tree, river, temple and gate move across the screen as your given a “textual” guide to the city of Kyoto.
May 1, 2013 No Comments
Brooklyn-based Japanese designer Nao Tamura created a chandelier that is inspired by her numerous trips to Venice, the City of Water. Or as Luigi Barzini described it, “the most beautiful city built by man.” Flow(t) is comprised of multiple blown glass vessels that appear to be immersed in blue-green hues as they calmly float through your room.
“There is a world under and the land above,” says Tamura, reflecting on the cityscape. “In the city of Venice, where the real world and fantasy coexists, this chandelier is the embodiment of the beauty of dual worlds.” Flow(t) was designed for Wonderglass and unveiled during Milano Salone 2013.
Tamura also shared with us some of her process sketches, which are equally beautiful and provide an intimate glimpse into how the chandelier came to be.
Last year we visited Nao Tamura in her studio.
May 1, 2013 No Comments
Since 1994, after noticing a resemblance between matches and Kokeshi dolls, Osaka-based artist Kumi Hirasaka has been handrawing small faces on matches. But it wasn’t until around 2000 when she realized the commercial potential of her hobby and ditched the brush for a rubber stamp, which was soon replaced by a printing press.
But even though the hand-made quality is gone, Hirasaka’s matches still retain a cuteness that almost keeps you from wanting to light up. In fact, if we replaced out entire supply of fire-igniting devices with these matches, don’t you think we’d see a significant decline in arson?
In 2011 Hirasaka even staged in exhibition in which she created almost 50 different match and match box sets referencing various artistic, cinematic and literary works.
April 29, 2013 1 Comment
The [th uh]
Used to mark a noun as indicating the best-known, most approved, most important, most satisfying, etc.
A natural process of selection occurs not only in life, but in the day-to-day objects we keep near us as well. We replace things as we find more suitable alternatives that, for one reason or another, enhance our lives. And so things change and evolve into more optimal forms. That’s according to Japanese designer Mizuno Manabu, at least, who believes that we are now at the point we can claim certain objects to be “classic” in design. And thus, on the back of his successful career as graphic designer and head of Good Design Company, began his now brand simply titled “THE.”
The initiative started online last year but has now morphed into a brick-and-mortar store on the 4th floor of KITTE, the new shopping center just outside Tokyo station. There you will find things like The Glass, The Plate, The Lunch Box and other daily essentials that claim superiority over their household brethren. But what makes the store work, saving it from the clenches of design elitism, is a carefully curated selection of non-originals.
A wide-variety – everything from toys and candy to bicycles – line the walls of the store. Before buying anything you can be certain that it’s gone under the design microscope. In one case they ordered and tested several hundred bowls, scoring each on things like form, durability and easy-to-clean. THE – with a name like that it’s hard to go wrong. (unless we’re talking about search engine optimization)
April 29, 2013 No Comments
This is pretty genius. The aptly titled “BLOW” is a wall-mount shelving unit that mimics a sudden gust of wind blowing papers away. Each piece is molded in A4 letter-size paper and made from thin steel, which is then twisted and contorted to create 5 different plates whose top and bottom can be used interchangeably. When several are combined it creates a dramatic scene, frozen in time.
The frozen scene is reminiscent of a 19th century woodblock print titled “Travelers Caught in a Sudden Breeze at Ejiri,” from Katsushika Hokusai’s The Thirty-six Views of Fuji – a scene that was also famously restaged by Jeff Walls.
April 25, 2013 No Comments
Earlier this year Google announced that YouTube Space Tokyo, the company’s third global production facility, would open following its 1st location in London and 2nd in LA last year. Located in Roppongi Hills, the free collaborative production space was designed by Tokyo-based Klein Dytham Architecture (KDa).
Following a similar (and highly successful) approach to T-Site, in which they used tessellated Ts to adorn the walls, KDa incorporated the red TV-screen-like logo into their designs. Red lacquered ceramic tiles line the walls of the reception, which fades to lighter hues in other spaces to create consistency. Clear branding was an obvious consideration as the logo even takes the form of wooden shelving in the kitchen.
The production studio, which includes 3 studios, equipment, a training/screening room, a café, and post-production resources, began accepting applicants in April.
We built the YouTube Space Tokyo as a way to support the incredible wave of Japanese creativity we have seen develop among our YouTube Partners over the last few years. The Space is an investment in these creators to support their quest to make even better videos and build even bigger global audiences.
-Google VP Tom Pickett, in a statement.
This is a big step for google, whose headquarters are also in the Mori Tower. Last year the company brought on 13 new media partners – amongst them heavyweights like Fuji TV and TBS.
What’s impressive is that KDa managed to fit fully equipped production studios into regular office spaces.
In the past, production studios required high ceilings to prevent the hot lighting rigs literally cooking performers. Modern LED lights, however, are cool and can be used in the space offered by high-rise office floors.
- KDa, in their press release
April 25, 2013 1 Comment