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Saturday, July 5, 2008

Greater Tokyo

Branding artist item idem (aka Cyril Duval) pays tribute to a master...

Yuichi Yoshii is my hero. The young-at-heart creative director of Tokyo's glam-metal retail temple Loveless, as well as the now-defunct Celux store (Louis Vuitton's private VIP salon in Omotesando), has always pushed the limits of Tokyo's shopping scene, at least since I moved here in 2004. I will always remember how enthusiastic he was when, as the freshly appointed fashion director of Tokion Japan, I proposed that I move my office into the Loveless shop window for an entire week. In the performance-art stunt, called THE WRONG OFFICE, I would go about my regular work with my team while also acting as a human advertisement for the magazine. I assembled a giant tableau, which amounted to an organized mess of papers, and it became a huge street success months before Karl Lagerfeld installed his office full of books in a similar project for Paris's Printemps department store.

After almost four years of brilliant creative direction for Loveless, Yoshii san is on the move again, with THE CONTEMPORARY FIX. Using guerrilla vocabulary, he destroyed his former (and popular) Aoyama restaurant, Pariya, keeping only the excavated foundations and adding metal structures from construction sites to create the very raw aesthetic of the new shop. It will change monthly and host various ephemeral projects.

It was a pure satisfaction, but not a surprise, to discover that the first guest in THE CONTEMPORARY FIX's program was renowned Japanese brand Mastermind, notorious for its cultivation of punk sensibilities within a high-fashion environment— their skull-and-crossbones logo appears on almost all of their products. Mastermind finally had their first flagship in Tokyo, if only temporary. On display are all their luxury items, from gold-coated Bearbricks ten times their size to an amazing logo-emblazoned motorbike, the ultimate must-have for wannabe-bosozoku, or Japanese Hell's Angels.

I can't wait to see what else Yoshii san has in store, in terms of both curation and retail design. I can't think of anyone else who's contributed as much to the constant rejuvenation of Tokyo's retail scene, except for Rei Kawakubo, of course, with her experimental space on Kotto Dori in Aoyama that I have seen evolve from colette meets Comme des Garcons (which I helped set up) to Dover Street Market Tokyo. And now comes news of her exciting joint venture with Louis Vuitton, launching in September. Clearly Tokyo is still the world's retail design laboratory.

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