Cover Skin Tote project by Satomi Minoshima (Photo: Ronald Smits)

Chosen by a prestigious jury headed by award-winning architect Kengo Kuma, here are the young Japanese designers to look out for at the Maison & Objet (M&O) 2022 fair in Paris

Design events are slowly gearing up again after multiple pandemic-related postponements. Case in point: the Maison & Objet (M&O) running from 24-28 March in Paris, France, which showcases the work of leading brands, stunning creations, and fresh talent in the fair halls.

Country-specific exhibitions are also present; and one of the highlights this year is the Japan installation; the country in the spotlight for the M&O Rising Talent Awards 2022. Featuring work from designers hand-picked by a prestigious jury—led by none other but the celebrated Japanese architect Kengo Kuma—it serves as a platform for the world to get to know up-and-coming names in Japan’s design scene.

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1. Yuma Kano

Creative Direction: Eschewing expensive and pristine materials, Yuma Kano is instead more interested in exploring decaying or forgotten materials. He has a particular fascination for rust, a symbol of decay and damage from which he creates a whole new expression. His ‘Rust Harvest’ project entailed propagating rust on metal sheets, lifting and harvesting them, then adding acrylic resin resulting in a surprising perspective and a completely new material. 

Personally impacted by the deforestation in Japan, Kano also started the ForestBank project wherein he incorporates readily found bark, branches, and fruit into acrylic resin that then forms a beautiful terrazzo-like surface with multiple applications. 

 

What’s Next: He is currently working with a fashion brand to create clothes that feature rust as well as collaborating with various architects and interior designers to make use of his ForestBank creations.

Studio Yuma Kano | yumakano.com

2. Haruka Misawa

Creative Direction: Paper is Haruka Misawa’s medium of choice, inspired by being surrounded by shoji screens and origami during her childhood years. For M&O, she presented a project called Doshi, which means “paper in movement” that showcases just that—paper that gets up, sways and dances as if it was alive. 

“Paper is basically a material that does not move on its own, but I wanted to give it the function to move and developed the idea,” she shares. She controlled the shape and size of paper and paired it with a magnetic force that gives an uncharacteristic element to the everyday material.

What’s Next? She continues to experiment with the types of movement for her Doshi project. In the future, she plans to bring her kinetic paper project to a bigger stage by creating an installation in a larger space. 

Misawa Design Institute | misawa.ndc.co.jp

3. Yuri Himuro

Creative Direction: A playful approach to textiles is commonplace but what about an interactive one? Well, that’s exactly what Yuri Himuro is doing.

Her goal is “to create new relationships and possibilities between people and textiles” and this is displayed in her Snip Snap project. She presented a dual-layered fabric and invited people to cut into it, which creates a new design altogether. 

 

Another project she’s working on concerns textile waste. “I’m currently looking at the problem of a large surplus of coloured yarns that were prepared as samples in the textile development process and were not used. From this, we developed a new blanket that allows people to enjoy colour combinations with colour schemes that change from time to time.”

Did You Know? The Snip Snap project inspired her Cultivate Collection rug, which was made in collaboration with CC Tapis, a popular Milan-based rug brand. 

Yuri Himuro | h-m-r.net

4. Kodai Iwamoto

Creative Direction: Making something out of leftover materials is nothing new but few are able to surprise the way Kodai Iwamoto does. His PVC Handblowing project utilises traditional glass-blowing techniques applied to PVC, resulting in beautiful vases imbued with a natural, organic feel. 

He adheres to the Japanese notion of prizing imperfections, which is something he expresses in his materials of choice and resulting work. “In recent years, due to technological developments such as artificial intelligence and fully automatic processing machines, many products tend to be standardised and have a uniform shape,” he shares. His aim is to combine mass production methods and the imprint of hand and craft in one product.

What’s Next? Iwamoto is working on his Pari Pari series, which began when he researched traditional hand wooden tools. He came across a Japanese method of making wooden shingles called hegi, which entails cutting wood with a machete, creating an uneven feel. 

Kodai Iwamoto Design | kohdaiiwamoto.com

5. Satomi Minoshima

Creative Direction: Satomi Minoshima chose perhaps the most atypical source of inspiration for her project—the human body’s largest organ. Yes, skin was the starting point for Skin Tote, which, as the name implies, saw her employing silicone used for prosthetics then casting and colouring each piece to come up with the conceptual creation.  

On the other hand, her project Inflatable Leather contrasts a well-loved material with an artificial inflatable one. Shaped like a doughnut, it’s an imaginative display of mixing both natural and synthetic materials in a playful way. Much of her work is about challenging a material’s inherent properties and delivering creations with an exuberant appeal.

Did You Know? Minoshima is also working in a design duo alongside her solo designs and initiatives. She plans to collaborate with Japanese washi artisans to create craft projects similar to her past endeavours. 

Satomi Minoshima | satomiminoshima.com

6. Baku Sakashita

Creative Direction: Paper is a mainstay of Japanese design, especially when it comes lighting. Baku Sakashita, however, manages to give it a fresh spin. His Suki lighting collection combines tengujoshi, a semi-translucent paper, and stainless-steel wire resulting in mobile-like lighting sculptures. He put space between the LED light source and the paper that create interesting geometric shadows.

“I’m a designer but I make my pieces with my hands much like an artisan. It’s important as I think through my hands, they lead me to where to go next. I think what I do is between design and craft,” shares Sakashita. In fact, his collection was inspired by Japanese craftspersons who make shoji screens. 

Did You Know? He started working on his latest creation for the Suki collection—a chandelier with a complicated structure—over three years ago but the pandemic hampered his ability to show it. M&O is the first time he is showcasing his work globally.  

Studio Baku | studiobaku.jp 

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