Early November, we saw Tokyo boiling with uncountable design events: during Design Week the latest designs from all over the world were showcased in Tokyo. Along with other events Swedish Style Tokyo has been held almost every year since 1999 and is certainly one – if not the – most popular of all events. Recent Swedish culture, design meetings and discussions, artists, DJs, chefs, furniture, funny Swedish ideas and their promoters…. everything Swedish seemed to gather in Tokyo. No wonder we got to meet so many Swedes in town all of a sudden! Here’s the report on this year’s Swedish Style Tokyo along with Sweden’s prod music label DNM (Dealers of Nordic Music) ultimate Nordic Lounge Radio Channel for BGM.
Written by Kaori Nishida
Front related photos by Anna Lönnerstam
Not to miss was the exhibition “Sketch Furniture” by Front exhibited at Tokyo Wonder Site Aoyama from October. Invited by the exchange program between Tokyo Wonder Site and IASPIS, the front stayed in Japan and developed a magnificent project. The sketched chairs and tables drawn in the air, get materialized in an almost magic way… The design unit Front that came up with such an innovative idea was definitely the talk of the town in those past weeks – magazine coverage non-stop.
I sneaked into the long queue of media interviewees and luckily I could have a little chat with Katja, one of the four Front members.
The exhibition room was full of people.
Anna, from Front demonstrates a sketch.
In this “Sketch Furniture”, the line of freehand sketches in the air are motion captured, then the laser beam builds the sketch in 3D – layer by layer – out of a liquid plastic material. How did you come up with this idea in the first place?
Katja (Front): I always thought “why start with 2D sketches when designing 3D products?” It all started from this simple question. It would surely be great if we could start sketching in 3D. Also, usually the first sketches are the best designs.
Another thing is that even if you’re not a trained designer, you could materialize your designs of your imagination using such a technique. Although – you can’t actually see your lines in the air and it is quite hard to draw! You go “Woops! Have I drawn this line already, or not?”. We actually had to train ourselves to draw in the air and our current chairs look much better than the first ones…
Apart from this “Sketch Furniture”, many of Front’s works ask the question “What is DESIGN?” A good example is their “Design by Animals” series where animals actually become the designers.
Katja (Front): When creating a product, there are usually some technical difficulties, and it takes many steps and many people involved to complete a design. It is very rare that the product stays the same as the original idea. So we thought of inviting animals into the production. Their design or their product is very direct for they only do what they want to do, don’t they? Thus we let the rats bite paper as much as they like to design this wallpaper, and snakes coil around clay to design hangers. Also, we made a vase out of a dog’s foot print in the deep snow, and motion captured the flying route of a fly dancing around a lamp, and made a lamp shade using the route line. They were excellent designers indeed!
a vase: shape of a dog’s foot print in the deep Swedish snow
a lampshade: the fly flew around the lamp like this
Some of Front’s electric appliances moves like living creatures…
Katja (Front): Our “Answering Machine” lets us know that we got a message from a friend indicated by a red light, and it plays the message by pulling. It is silicon stuffed, so it’s very soft and feels comfortable when touched. It makes people happy when they come home and see the red light.
“Awakening Lamp” is equipped with a motion sensor, so it stands up and lights up when a person comes into the room, and when the person switches it off to sleep, the lamp also lies down and sleeps together with the owner.
Other Front works play with scale. Front enlarged the teacup used in doll houses, keeping the original shape. Enlarged in various scales, the teacups became too fat to hold, but some were just right as espresso cups, and big ones fitted very well as plant vases. The little girls’ teacup proved to be very nice for adults when scaled up. What a sweet idea!
In the hall of the Embassy of Sweden was another exhibition titled “Wallflowers”. The walls were colorfully covered and decorated by Swedish designers. Graphic designer Hanna Werning covered walls with various cuts of pasted wallpaper. She just turned the traditional concept “a room should be covered with the same wallpaper” into a casual thinking “use wallpaper like posters – cut’n'paste as you like”.
patchworked wallpaper by Hanna Werning
Embassy hall: “Wallflower” exhibition
Hanna’s other works include colorful “Blow Drawings” which inspired her to happy handlebar streamers.
Handlebar Streamers for which she ripped nylons of various colours
“Buck Shot Jeans” are another project for which she literally shot jeans. Her very casual but lovely ideas are going well beyond the boundary of graphic design.
At the embassy, I asked Noriko Honma, who has been organizing Swedish Style Tokyo for a while, why Swedish Style is so popular in Japan...
Noriko Honma (Swedish Style organizer): When we started this event, most of the works exhibited were along the stereotypical image of chic, simple and economical Nordic design. But in recent years, Swedish designs enjoy colour and are full of new ideas. Nordic countries are deemed to get linked with long dark winters, but summer in Sweden is amazingly bright with the never sinking sun, indeed colourful. I think of the Swedish Style as such a bright and idea-full world, but always with a solid value in quality.
Swedish Style is the event that introduces Sweden to Tokyo, but on the contrary back in 2004 Tokyo Style was held in Stockholm and Göteborg to introduce Japanese art and culture. Jesper Larsson at Next Century Modern played a key role in Tokyo Style in Göteborg. A big fan of “Shibuya-kei music” – the exhibition held at Café Pause in Ikebukuro, I talked to Jesper about both Tokyo and Swedish culture.
Tokyo Style in Göteborg
Tokyo Style in Göteborg
Jesper, please tell us about Next Century Modern and how you got to bring Tokyo Style to Sweden?
Jesper Larsson: Next Century Modern are currently four people operating on event production, design, exhibitions and the event space. I originally started alone selling 2K t-shirts online in my student days. I simply LOVE Cornelius and applied for a scholarship to fly to Tokyo in 2001. It all worked out, I met so many people in those three months, including Cornelius and his family – amazing!!! I then approached the people of Tokyo Style casually, but ended up as their project manager for Tokyo Style in Göteborg. We gathered over ten thousand people visiting the event in two days only. I think there never have been so many people on one spot in Sweden!
Nudie café exhibition at Ikebukuro café Pause
artist NIM(SWE)’s original software moves the graphics by PMFKA
I heard that Pecha-Kucha Night kicks off in Göteborg, too!
Jesper Larsson: Yes! We’re now planning to start it this winter. We are going to rent a club for the venue, but we want to make it happen with free entrance!!! It’s going to be a fun!
Thank you, Jesper!
Finally, I had a little chat with Jakob Lusensky at DNM (Dealers of Nordic Music) who organized some nice Nordic Lounge music at Café 246 in Aoyama. He initially started the label as a platform for his friends to introduce their music back in 2002. DNM has done a great job in promoting cool sounds from Sweden overseas.
Jakob, tell me what’s so charming about Nordic music!?
Jakob (DNM) Well, there are so many different styles in Nordic music, so it is kind of difficult to tell, but the music we’re introducing here is electro, jazz, house and pop. They all are of high quality, unforgettable melodies and a slight doze of melancholy. Perhaps these values can be heard in other styles of Nordic music, too. Now, four years since the start of DNM, our ambition is to showcase not only music, but the Swedish Creativity in design, fashion, and lifestyles globally.
During the week of Swedish Style Tokyo, we’ve opened a temporary Nordic Lounge café inside the Café 246 in Aoyama Ichome for a trial. We are planning to open a real permanent Nordic Lounge Café in Tokyo in 2007. I hope we could inspire people in Tokyo and make them interested in Swedish Creativity.
I bet you could! Surely we look forward to seeing more and more of Swedish creativity coming over to inspire TOKYO! Thanks to everyone!