More than 100 installations and events for 10 days in 10 districts: what is the Japanese format of widespread creativity and where it's headed

Fashion and design were the protagonists of Tokyo Creative Salon from 14 to 24 March, the first totally in-person edition of the event designed as a digital format in 2020.

For 10 days, more than 100 installations and events enlivened 10 districts of Tokyo, bringing young talents and experimentation to the fore in Marunouchi, Nihonbashi, Ginza, Yurakucho, Akasaka, Shibuya, Harajuku, Haneda, Roppongi, and Shinjuku.

Keeping craftsmanship alive by attracting young people towards age-old professions, giving space to emerging talents, creating new synergies between fashion and design and attracting an international audience”: these are these, according to the General Creative Director Seiichi Saito, the ambitious objectives of the first edition of the event (which also arrives at the FuoriSalone in Milan at Superstudio Più).

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The highlights of Tokyo Creative Salon 2024

Among the highlights, the Yawar:Akasaka textile park by Nendo, a series of soft objects that fit together to form outdoor seats and beds, illuminated at night; the objects – designed by international designers such as Formafantasma, Inga Sempé, GamFratesi – for Japan Creatives; the Sakura Textile Park in Nihonbashi - the experience of the cherry blossoms to be lived through an installation of fabrics decorated by 5 artists (Lee Izumida, Masaru Suzuki, Satsuki Mishima, An Chen, and Alexis Jamet); 90 years of fashion history told in a fashion show through AirFrance uniforms, designed by the most iconic international stylists.

A large and widespread event which activated - under the aegis of the Tokyo Prefectural Government - companies, local administrations, professional associations, students and creatives.

At first, there was fashion...

“Tokyo Creative Salon was born in 2020,” explains Seiichi Saito. “Due to the pandemic, it started as a digital format and this year we finally proposed it as a collaborative and choral event including design. We've been preparing it for a year."

In fact, Tokyo Creative Salon is a project of broad and complex scope above all because it involves different realities, attempting to guide their presence through centralized curation.

“It all comes from the desire to bring together different creative, institutional and productive souls and present them as a whole: a creative exhibition in Tokyo, capable of involving a diverse audience and challenging conventions in terms of locations and types of presentations” , continues Saito.

“Tokyo Creative Salon is mainly focused on fashion but wants to expand into the design sector. It wants to give space to young talents, therefore it pushes the accelerator on collaborations with schools and emerging studios. It then involves institutions - primarily including Haneda airport, which has its own cultural program with a dedicated curator - and businesses. And the common thread that underlies everything is the focus on know-how: the craftsmanship of age-old Japanese techniques that we absolutely want to preserve and bring into the contemporary world."

An alternative to runways for emerging designers

It is not easy to plan such an event from scratch and this is precisely why the story of the genesis of Tokyo Creative Salon is interesting.

“With the majority of Japanese fashion designers showing in Paris and young stylists unable to talk about themselves through the demanding format of the fashion shows, we created a container capable of offering alternative presentation methods”, explains Seiichi Saito. “A widespread event where young designers – and also Japanese textile companies – could exhibit their work with more flexible installations and presentations.”

Any examples? The sculptural garments from the Beyond Couture project by fashion designer Yuima Nakazato, created with a new method of three-dimensional modeling of materials of protein origin, exhibited in Shibuya in a mall with a large amount of public traffic: with an exhibition, interactive explanations and the possibility of touching the exceptional fabric first hand.
And, at Haneda airport, Sputniko's Transflora project! x Masaya Kushino, made with a yarn that emits light because it is made from genetically modified silkworms thanks to the implantation of DNA from jellyfish. Also in this case, a scenographic display illustrates to passengers the unique characteristics of the fabric, through a play of mirrors and reflections.

The great challenge: bringing young people into craftsmanship

“The aim is to illustrate the know-how of our artisans and our companies to a non-expert audience, both Japanese and international”, continues Seiichi Saito. “And demonstrate that craftsmanship can also be expressed in decidedly contemporary solutions. Too few young people today choose these professions but it is necessary to keep them alive."

A complex ambition above all because we are talking about hundreds, thousands of very small businesses that often do not want to open up to doing anything else.

An international design studio, for example, involved in the creation of a poster-object with a Japanese craftsman as part of a project designed to promote indigenous manufacturing, was unable to involve the small Japanese company in a collaboration with a fashion giant who, having seen the object, decided to put it into production. “They didn't want it and there was no way to convince them,” the designer explained to us.

It is therefore not surprising that some projects born years ago to support Japanese craftsmanship - such as Japan Creative which involved designers such as Raw-Edges, Pierre Charpin, Paul Cocksedge just to name a few in the creation of small productions – they will now be relaunched with a new verve.

“There were not the results we expected,” explains Saito. “Perhaps because we focused everything on the positioning of the pieces, on showing them to an international audience, on the names of the designers. Instead of focusing on craftsmanship and the wonder of age-old processes and telling young people about them. We will implement new strategies".

It will take years to understand if these strategies work because, obviously, this challenge cannot be solved by doing glamorous projects and presenting them internationally but by working on the territory, on young people and on small artisan businesses.

In the meantime, the appointment with Tokyo Creative Salon for the international public is at the FuoriSalone, at Superstudio Più, from 16 to 21 April.


Cover photo: Sputniko's Transflora! x Masaya Kushino at Haneda Airport, Tokyo