Designs on Japan

Tokyo Designers Week showcased an abundance of global talent.

Now in its 23rd year, Tokyo Designers Week, held October 30-November 3, 2008, remains Japan’s most important design festival, incorporating the big shows: 100% Tokyo and Design Tide, alongside dozens of smaller exhibitions, installations, product launches, and parties across the city.

100% Tokyo, the sister show of 100% London, the UK’s largest curated furniture and interiors show, came into its own this year with a host of shows-within-shows including 100% Prototype, 100% Shop, 100% Professional, 100% Material and Detail, and 100% Futures among others. It was a massively crowded 3-day event—almost 85,000 people came to 100% Design Tokyo compared to 100% Design London’s 27,000.

Inside massive white tents in the grounds of Meiji Jingu Garden in Aoyama, Tokyo, the main show was devoted to cutting edge furniture, interiors, and lighting. Japanese design brands such as Hoya Crystal and Taschen Japan were side by side with up and coming collectives such as Dutch designers Created In Holland. Highlights from local talent included Japanese furniture designers Cozy and Cozy, whose work with ‘plant designer’ Atelier Yukiyanagi looked like plastic bag trees. Jewelry designer Heigo debuted a new collection of minimal, industrial-looking wearable art. Trade Council of Iceland landed the prime spot at the main entrance, and Scottish Enterprise had a host of friendly designers on hand to chat about the diverse works on show.

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At the same site, trade fair/marketplace Blickfang, showed select interiors, jewelry and fashion design from designers from Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. Their massive tent was over-filled with visitors waiting to buy the objects on show while just outside another show was installed in a series of metal shipping containers. This outdoor installation, Container Ground, consisted of a ‘container village’ by international designers such as Australian designers Elastik, Kose Cosmetics, and Nike, who invited visitors to get to know their brand or their works by stepping into their shipping container.

In their fourth year, Design Tide and Design Tide Market were big draws at the event. Design Tide’s main venue was Tokyo Midtown conference centre in Roppongi but there were dozens of less populated ‘off sites’ throughout the city—including Tadao Ando’s new 21_21 Design Site gallery. At Design Tide, Tokyo-based Canadian Chris Kirby’s pendant lights and vases were popular at the launch event, with visitors circling the installation wondering how he makes his glowing ceramic ‘negatives’.

Beyond its size and breadth, what sets 100% Tokyo aside from other international design shows is its focus on the consumer. All visitors, including those in the press and trade, wore large black and white tickets that said ‘Consumer’. It serves as a reminder that good design is more than just art or concept, at 100% Design Tokyo it is about utility, novelty, style –and of course, commerce.

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