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Live from Tokyo

Jeroen Junte is a freelance journalist whose writing credits include the Dutch newspapers De Volkskrant and Financieele Dagblad. Currently in Japan attending the 100% Design Tokyo Fair, he'll be keeping up to date with regular blogs from the event.

By Jeroen Junte / 02-11-2007

Jeroen Junte is a freelance journalist whose writing credits include the Dutch newspapers De Volkskrant and Financieele Dagblad. Currently in Japan attending the 100% Design Tokyo Fair, he'll be keeping up to date with regular blogs from the event.

Sunday 4 November

Just like at 100% Design, the Dutch contribution to Design Tide is not to be missed. Neither are half the guests the Design Tide organizers have flown in from the Netherlands. What’s striking is that they didn’t go for the usual names, but new talent. Simon Heijdens showed his luminous wallpaper that reacts to movement. Sarah van Gameren, who studied and now lives in London, is so new that her chandelier, actually one large candle, hasn’t even been shown in the Netherlands. Finally, Niels van Eijk and Miriam van der Lubbe took pride of place at Design Tide, presenting new vases and, of course, the striking Bobbing Lace Lamp.

The usual suspects of Dutch design weren’t completely absent at Design Tide, however. Piet Hein Eek and Jurgen Bey both had presentations (of old work). Only Joris Laarman showed (not counting the inevitable concrete radiator Heat Wave)-new work, an umbrella made from a number of rainshields.

Hella Jongerius also had new work on show, not at Design Tide, but at the renowned shop/gallery Cibone, where work from Maarten Bas and Piet Hein Eek is also sold. Her copper scales have been decorated by colourful enameled paintings by Japansese craftsmen. A splendid mix of Dutch common sense and Japanese tradition. The Netherlands could not have hoped for a better impulse for the status of Dutch design in Japan the Netherlands than this.

Friday 2 November

Tokyo is not Milan – we all know that of course. But that doesn’t fully explain why the Tokyo Designer’s week is different to the Salone del Mobile. Sure, the layout of both events is the same. At both events there are the designers and labels who present themselves in galleries and ad hoc exhibition places in the downtown areas. And also they both stage an official programme – the fair. And although Tokyo even has two fairs, it can’t compete with its Italian counterpart.

First of all, Tokyo lacks the much anticipated previews and premieres of upcoming products from big players like Cappellini, Edra, Moooi of Established & Sons. Why's that? The status of design in Japan may be on the way up, but the general public in Japan is just not ready for a Ron Arad chair or a Marcel Wanders lamp. So why take the effort? And come to mention it, where are Ron and Marcel anyway. Without these ‘stars’ of the design world Tokyo will never be Milano.

But what is not, might come! Certainly, efforts are being made. Countries like Belgium, Spain, Sweden and even The Czech Republic and Argentina have all invested in their design industry by financing presentations at the 100% Design Tokyo, the biggest of two fairs in Tokyo. And, of course, the Netherlands. But the Dutch have taken just that little bit of extra effort. Apart from the group presentation ‘Created in Holland’ with the other countries at the 100% Design Fair, they have rented out a neat gallery (almost opposite the illustrious Prada-building from Swiss architects Herzog & De Meuron). This group exhibition is called ‘No windmills, cheese or tulips’ – ...‘but cutting edge design’, one could add. Dutch designers are given the opportunity to display their works. Off course big names like Richard Hutten and Jurgen Bey are there. But also the next generation is represented by Cris Kabel, Demakersvan and Kiki van Eijk. The exhibition also has the playfulness that Dutch design is famous for – the products are scattered round a table that has supposedly fallen over.

But maybe the best promotion of what Holland has to offer in the field of creative industry fell as a gift from the sky: the opening of the MVRDV-building on the Omotosando, the Via Marzoni of Tokyo (the ‘5th Avenue’ or ‘PC Hooft’ for those readers that don’t know Milano). What an eyecatcher in a street that is already loaded with buildings by some of the best architects in the world (Ando, Ito, Herzog & De Meuron). Being surrounded by buildings like this beautifully layered building, it can only be a matter of time before the general public in Japan will discover the design from the likes of Ron Arad or Marcel Wanders. And with Japan still the second biggest economy in the world, they might need to start taking precautions in Milan!

Wednesday 31 October

The steady drone of house music floats over the square. Young Japanese people with blond highlights, wearing faded jeans with metal belts, are nodding to the beat. The plentiful supply of beer in buckets of cold water helps to get conversations going. Whoever said the Japanese were a modest and reserved people?

But it could be that the opening party of the Tokyo Designer's Week isn’t really representative of ordinary life in Japan. For a week (31 October until 5 November), Tokyo will be dominated by design, and this explains the excited atmosphere here – Japan is a country where design is highly regarded. And the Tokyo Designer's Week is no longer a merely Japanese occasion. Designers from all over the world are here to take part. Japan is, after all, the second-strongest economy in the world.

A quick trip around 100% Design Tokyo, one of the main attractions of the week, is enough to show that the Japanese appreciation of design is a familiar fact in the Netherlands. At this event, ten Dutch designers will be presenting work at the event, under the name ‘Created in Holland’. The Netherlands isn’t the only country with promotions here – but the stands from countries like Argentina, Belgium and even Sweden look a bit meagre when compared to the strong ‘orange’ presence at the centre of the enormous tent.

The Dutch display, developed with the support of design association BNO, design platform Premsela and the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, offers a complete overview of the current state of Dutch design. Ceramics producer Koninklijke Tichelaar Makkum is presenting designs by Studio Job and Hella Jongerius, among others. But high tech materials by textile producers Hybrids + Fusion, which mostly produces basic materials for other producers, is also represented. The work by the individual designers who are part of the group exhibition is also very varied. Arnout Visser, an old associate of Droog Design, is presenting a selection of his best glass designs from the last ten years; most of these are limited editions. By contrast, a young designer like Laurens van Wieringen is showing chairs and vases that would be very suitable for mass production.

The Dutch presence at 100% Design isn’t limited to ‘Created in Holland’. Model label G-star is emphatically present outside, with a high tech glass container. It’s also great to see that a number of Dutch designers have taken the initiative to launch themselves in Japan. Gerard From Holland, a Gerard der Kinderen label, has a small stand with his foam-covered table. It looks like a table with a table cloth over it. And this is only the Dutch contribution to 100% Design.

The Netherlands is also prominent at the other main event, Design Tide. And then there are presentations of Dutch stalwarts like Hella Jongerius and Maarten Baas in prestigious galleries like Cibone. But this is only the first day, and there was hardly time to take a look at everything there was to see.

© Photos Aad Krol

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