Tokyo Designers Week plays artistic matchmaker to attendees

by

Special To The Japan Times

Someone needs to designate October as “culture month” in Tokyo. Almost every artistic discipline has offered up a major event in the capital this month: Tokyo Fashion Week, Tokyo International Film Festival, Red Bull Music Academy — day planners are full.

Pencil in some time for architecture, art and design, though. From Oct. 25 through Nov. 3, Tokyo Designers Week will pitch its tents within the grounds of Meiji Jingu Gaien Park. The event, organized by the Design Association and supported by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, has grown enormously over its 29-year existence. This year it has invited artists of all genres and from more than 20 different countries to take part.

“Last year was not crazy enough; this year will be even more fun,” promises Design Association chair Kenji Kawasaki. “People think that art and design are disparate, but they are intrinsically linked. Design has the most power and is the biggest business, but oddly enough, most of our 14,000 visitors come for the music.”

Yes sir, Tokyo Designers Week can boogie. This year’s event includes performances from rockers Sebastian X, pop singer UA and DJ Seiho.

More importantly, however, it acts as a springboard for up-and-coming creatives, providing them with a place to show their work, as well as a forum to communicate with professionals from around the world. Delivering on the “genius” in the event’s official title, “Creative FeS Tokyo Genius Expo,” the pros slated to perform or give talks include folk singer Ikue Asazaki, Harajuku style-icon Sebastian Masuda and product designer Ross Lovegrove. Hopefully, hearing about real-life experiences and seeing the level of the industry will help young artists better position themselves in their fields.

Kawasaki says Tokyo Designers Week organizers have put most of their energy into planning the Youth Creator Exhibition and the event’s Asia Awards competition. Award winners will be announced Oct. 30. There are two categories — one for schools and one for individual students — both of which are grouped under the heading “My Avant-Garde.” The grand prize in each category is ¥500,000, with smaller cash prizes for overseas and corporation-partnered submissions.

“This is a great event because I can see the crossover between creative genres,” says Asia Awards nominee Koshiro Ebata. The 24-year-old designer of Koenji-based fashion label Garter Tokyo is nominated in the fashion category for his pleated cocktail dresses with geometric silhouettes that are made from nude leather.

“The theme this year was ‘My Avant-Garde,’ so I drew from my own roots and created a collection based on Japanese folding techniques such as those you see in origami and packaging.”

In addition to fashion, categories in the student-oriented awards section center on design, art and music. A separate panel and exhibition of heavy hitters is being prepared so that young and aspiring architects can get a look at the design process as it applies to 12 professionals in particular — including Kazuyo Sejima, Junya Ishigami and Sou Fujimoto.

In tandem with this Architectural Model and Project Proposal exhibition, Tokyo Designers Week will feature Super Construction Materials and Super Renovation exhibitions that display construction materials and suggestions for home renovations. The addition of such sections may appear random, but organizers hope that young designers like Ebata might wander into the exhibitions and be inspired to use construction materials in future fashion designs.

“Actually, I spoke with Ebata about making clothing out of concrete for our press release this year,” Kawasaki says. “It didn’t work, though, so he experimented with other materials.”

Though we won’t be wearing cement pants anytime soon, the Design Association will consider Tokyo Designers Week a success if someone from the fashion industry even dips a toe into the world of architecture, music or art. Having professionals and students from various disciplines at one event facilitates connections as well as awareness.

For the average person, though, the festival atmosphere (food stalls, concerts, a PechaKucha night) and shopping are hopefully enough of a draw.

“This exhibition started as a place for specialists and professionals,” Kawasaki says, “but the main goal of Tokyo Designers Week is to bring together the designers, makers and users in one place. Be it robots, architecture, art, object design or fashion, this is an event that helps individuals form their own creative lives.

Tokyo Designers Week runs from Oct. 25 until Nov. 3 at various locations around Meiji Jingu Gaien Park in Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo. Tickets are ¥2,500 in advance and ¥3,000 at the door (¥2,500 for university students, ¥1,500 for high school students and ¥1,000 for elementary and junior high school students). Discounts are also available for adults who bring a spouse or a child. For more information, visit www.tdwa.com.