Bunkaya meets Paul Smith: cult Harajuku shop meets fashion icon

Fashion Trends Trends & Culture - August 27th, 2013
bunkaya meets paul smith

Bunkaya meets Paul Smith is a collaboration between one of the world’s best-known designers and Bunkaya Zakkaten, a cult store in the backstreets of Harajuku known for its quirky, charming and somewhat unorthodox style.

The pairing has resulted in a pop-up shop space – Paul Smith SPACE Gallery is open until September 23 – in the same part of Tokyo that is displaying and selling a range of about 60 handmade items, including teapots, mugs and badges, all of which are based on photographs taken by Smith himself. The British design icon, who says he has enjoyed dropping in at the eccentric Bunkaya shop when in Tokyo over the past three decades, is clearly very happy about the collaboration.

“When I first went to Tokyo in the early 1980s I met a group of friends, one of which was the owner of Bunkaya,” says Smith. “I immediately fell in love with his shop because in a world where everything is so chic and considered, it was kitsch, which is a great contrast to most of the fashion industry. It had a real sense of fun.”

Smith decks out and accessorizes his stores across London with trinkets he has bought at Bunkaya, adding a little fun to the experience he wants to offer his customers.

Smith decks out and accessorizes his stores across London with trinkets he has bought at Bunkaya, adding a little fun to the experience he wants to offer his customers.

On the surface, this particular partnership may seem a little odd. With more than 200 shops throughout the country, Paul Smith is the one of the biggest selling European designers in Japan, while Bunkaya Zakkaten is just a solitary shop selling an eclectic mix of items at fairly low prices.

Yet despite this, Yoshitaro Hasegawa, the 66-year-old president of Bunkaya, who when we meet is dressed in a funky hat and yellow, measuring tape-like braces, believes he has quite a lot in common with man who was knighted in 2000.

“I think we have a similar philosophy in terms of work,” he tells Weekender.

bunkaya meets paul smith

Look carefully at this clock, and you can tell the time…

“We both believe that it (fashion) should be enjoyable and that is far more important than making a profit. Some people think I am crazy (and say) ‘these are handmade goods, why don’t you charge more?’ But I am not interested in money; I honestly couldn’t give a damn if one or all of these items were sold. The most important thing is the heart and soul that went in to making them.”

The exposure that Bunkaya will get from the collaboration with Paul Smith will no doubt prove financially beneficial for Hasegawa, though listening to him speak one gets the impression he hasn’t given that a moment’s thought.

Click here for website and map for the store, which will sell the collaboration range until September 23.

Our top picks from the Bunkaya meets Paul Smith collection:


The purses come in all shape and sizes, and we think we may need them all. The rectangular, fold-over version is perfect to carry an array of bills, cards and receipts, while the bite-sized circular ones, adorned with playful nose-and-mustache combos, might come in handy for coin hoarders. We love the simple purse with the zipper on top, as it’s a useful hold-all with some irresistible signature Paul Smith ‘British-ness’.


Time might actually seem to go faster on a boring day at work should you be checking the time on this multi-coloured timepiece, adorned with everything ranging from garden gnomes to a Buckingham Palace guard. The unusual rectangular shape caught our eye, and although you can’t really see the actual numbers on the clock – we doubt anyone will buy this solely based on its practicality – the piece is sure to spruce up any home or office.

bunkaya meets paul smith document folder&board

Might these Bunkaya meets Paul Smith back to school items help your productivity levels?

Back to School

Back to school and to work in September, but the clipboards and document folders might add to your level of productivity while giving a stylish twist to otherwise bland work supplies. We like how they’re available in a wide array of playful images, such as a summer-reminiscing ice cream cone in close-up shot and other eclectic collages of Sir Paul Smith’s photographic skills.

Fancy a Cuppa’?

Things don’t get more British than these Paul Smith teapots (pictured at the top of the page in Paul Smith’s Park Street shop window in London), and this item is our absolute must-have. Forget boring old teapots when you can serve tea from this piece of art – really. The pot comes in two different sizes, and they each look slightly different from one another which gives them an even more unique feel. These make for great gifts, so get your hands on one before they sell out.

By Matthew Hernon (pics by Vivian Morelli)