As we look forward to Design Festa, here’s our pick of five up-and-coming inspiring Tokyoites making waves in design, illustration, art, and other fields.
Okame: Illustrator and Artist
“I want to create slightly surreal, silly art that makes people who are under pressure or stress feel like ‘well … what will be, will be.’ I want them to feel relaxed, physically and psychologically. I’ve realized having a relaxed mind is important.”
In Okame’s [pictured above] vibrant playful illustrations there are multiple worlds where humans, animals and creatures mix together in a variety of absurd situations. Her works are funny, accessible and astute, perfectly suited to adorn all kinds of goods from stationery to T-shirts. After three years working as a web designer, she went freelance in 2009 and has designed goods for various companies in addition to producing numerous illustrations for websites, magazines, flyers and so on. Recently her emoji stamps for the LINE messaging application became a popular trend as her unique sense of humor and charming loose-style drawings seem to hit a chord with almost everyone. Despite having had a baby this year, Okame shows no signs of slowing down and hopes to continue her activities, producing new goods, participating in events, and no doubt continuing to quirk smiles on many more faces.
Where to see it in Tokyo: Small goods are available at Design Studio Tora no Koya (toranokoya.com), and T-shirt designs can be bought from Arton in Shibuya (www.arton.jp). Also, don’t miss the chance to visit her booth (No.A-84/85) at Design Festa 44.
Lee Kan Kyo: Artist
“I want to send my thoughts out there to you!”
Lee Kan Kyo was born in Taiwan but has been living in Japan for almost a decade. Working across many mediums, he is difficult to pigeonhole as his art continues to evolve and touches on everything from illustration and design to conceptual and video art. Regardless of form, it is always striking, colorful and packed with energy. His work has a strong graphic quality yet still holds a powerful depth as he explores ideas and concepts of mass production and consumerism, often through repetitive processes, having previously produced work looking at idol culture and supermarket advertising. Since graduating from the master’s program at Tokyo Zokei University, he has been consistently active in the Tokyo art scene through exhibitions and art fairs, winning the Grand Prix prize in the 10th “1_WALL” Graphics Exhibition in 2014. In recent years he has garnered attention and a steady following with his unique Instagram account chronicling his daily “juice box selfie,” which he later made into a set of playing cards.
Where to see it in Tokyo: Check his website and social media for current and upcoming events and exhibitions. His goods, including the must-have “juice box selfie” playing cards, are available from Shinjuku Ophthalmologist Gallery (www.gankagarou.com) and Utrecht in Harajuku (utrecht.jp). Visitors are also welcome at his new studio in Kodaira, west Tokyo.
Akari Urigami: Textile Artist
“My work is based on the vision I have of reality in the world around us – all kinds of living things mixing and coexisting within an environment … It is not for anyone but at the same time it is for everyone.”
Akari’s soft sculptures and textile work are an explosion of incredible colors blending together across abstract landscapes of shape and texture in an exploration of “humans as living things.” After receiving the Graduation Excellence Award for her costume piece in the textiles major at Musashino Art University, Akari has gone on to hold several solo exhibitions of her non-wearable works in addition to collaborations with the fashion world. Her process often begins with hand-dyeing cloth, sewing it and then stuffing it to make 3D forms resembling flesh, skin and the natural exteriors of animals. As a teenager immersed in the Harajuku fashion scene, she envisioned clothing as a human skin and saw this as a way to express intentions, realities and desires. Seeing Akari’s work stirs the senses and connects to something beneath the surface – much like the body, it is impressive as much because of the impact of the complete work as the detail of each small section.
Where to see it in Tokyo: When not part of feature exhibitions, her work can be found at Diego gallery in Omotesando (www.di-ego.net/gallery). Recently, Akari embarked on an extended trip to London, but we can expect big and beautiful things when she returns to Tokyo.
Brandon Reierson: Designer
“My work plays heavily on personal nostalgia that awkwardly tugs at the heart … I hope to encourage people to look a bit inward and not only embrace those awkward insecurities from their past a little more lightheartedly, but also to channel it as a means of self expression.”
Hailing from a small town in Oklahoma, USA, Brandon Reierson moved to Tokyo about four years ago. Working under the name Lactose Intoler-Art (a reference to Brandon’s own lactose intolerance), he transforms his quirky illustrations into wearable garments and accessories. Inspired by 90s cartoons, video games and Japanese street fashion, Lactose Intoler-Art designs mix fresh, futuristic qualities with throwback nostalgia. Without focusing on one specific target market, Brandon hopes that the people who wear his brand will mix it with their own individual style, a wish that is certainly coming true in melting pot fashion hotspots like Harajuku, Koenji and Shimokitazawa. These unique designs with chaotic all-over prints and clashing embellishments are waves ahead of generic streetwear and hold their own in a fantasy world of cartoon chic.
Where to see it in Tokyo: Lactose Intoler-Art is sold at Hayatochiri in Koenji (hayatochiri-koenji-kitakore.com). Brandon frequently holds pop-up shops and exhibitions (previously selling pieces at LaForet and Parco) so be sure to check his social media to find out where the next event will be.
Nanae Kawahara: Illustrator
“People can see my works are colorful with shiny stars and some kawaii things, like animals and girls. On the other hand, I would like to explain they also have dark side, like gothic things, depression, slight suspense and monsters…”
Endearing illustrations with recurring imagery of dreams, dogs and abstract patterns are conveyed in a unique muted palette through Nanae’s soft but captivating style. After graduating from the graphic design course at Tama Art University, and relocating to the UK to study a master’s degree in illustration, she returned to Japan in 2012. Having worked on various projects with fashion brands and music companies, she continues to exhibit regularly whilst selling a plethora of goods in select stores across the city. Her love of music and dogs are directly apparent in her work, while she also draws on personal experiences, memories and thoughts about life and death for inspiration. Nanae’s work overflows with dreamy imagery, both light and dark, but ultimately it conveys a warm feeling of optimism and cheer.
This article appears in the November 2016 issue of Tokyo Weekender magazine.