In 2015 Links’ furoshiki were exhibited at the 47 textiles exhibition by D&DEPARTMENT in the Hikarie department store in Shibuya. D&DEPARTMENT follow the concept of “long-life design” — selling objects designed to be lovingly used over a long time. Some of our furoshiki are still being sold at the store there, so it’s a great place to try them out if you’re visiting Tokyo.
D&DEPARTMENT also publish a design-focussed Japan travel series called d design travel. Each edition focusses on one of Japan’s 47 prefectures. We’ve created a special Tokyo furoshiki & d travel magazine set, for the Tokyo Issue (the Tokyo Issue was first published in 2012, with extra information added in 2016).
We wanted to know more about this project, so we went to the store in Shibuya to talk to D&DEPARTMENT’s Shimizu San (photos by Alex Abian).
Q: To start off, why don’t you tell us about how D&DEPARTMENT began?
A: D&DEPARTMENT started up as a project by designer Kenmei Nagaoka, who was running a graphic design studio together with Kenya Hara.
Questioning the fast cycles of change for products in our world, and working from the idea that a designer’s role is to take good things, arrange them neatly, and show them to others, D&DEPARTMENT PROJECT started off by opening a recycle shop in Okusawa, Tokyo, with the concept of neatly arranging and showing everyday products according to the eye of a designer.
Q: I often visited D&DEPARTMENT store in those early days. The store was in a residential area with almost no other shops around, which made me think it was a really odd kind of place. I remember that I used to pass by the store often, as if it was some kind of hideaway spot.
A: For a long time, D&DEPARTMENT had many customers like you, who were fans of the store. We created a cafe on the first floor of the building, feeling that we should offer something like coffee to people who came to the store with a purpose.
Q: What kinds of products were popular in those days?
A: Nagaoka found a Karimoku sofa that was about to be discontinued and bought up all the remaining stock. He asked us to sell the sofa at the store. When we started to sell these Karimoku sofas, they became really popular. Following on from this, we started up a project called 60VISION, working with the idea that the essence of design is in 1960s manufacturing. This also became the departure point for the company.
Q: Could you tell us about d design travel, which is now on sale as a set with Link’s Tokyo furoshiki?
A: With the Iwate Issue, which is our latest, d design travel is now at 24 issues. The first one came out nine years ago in 2009. Inspired by having a D&DEPARTMENT STORE in Hokkaido, we thought it would be interesting to look at good design in Hokkaido from the point of view of the place itself. This is what led to the publication of the Hokkaido Issue.
Q: So you are currently at 24 issues, and are you planning to publish an issue for each of Japan’s 47 prefectures? When would that be?
A: Actually, the editing for the magazine takes a total of four months, with the editor staying in the place for two of those months. This means that we can only publish three issues a year. At this rate, it would take another eight years to cover all the 47 prefectures!
Q: Do you experience any difficulties in focusing on a prefecture and creating the magazine?
A: Well, there is actually something like a sensibility unique to each prefecture, and it’s true that there are different communication styles in each of these places. So first of all, the editor has to visit the place and take it in as it is. The editor then has to dig out everything that’s there and carefully examine this stuff through public editorial meetings with the local people and map it with google. I feel it’s important for the editor to demonstrate his/her enthusiasm to the local people through this gradual, step-by-step work process.
Q: Japan is getting a lot of international tourists visiting these days, I feel. Do you have anything you’d like to say to people—including these kinds of tourists—who visit Hikarie Shibuya and to readers of d travel magazine?
A: Shibuya is a place that gets the spotlight, not only from Japan but also from around the world. We have the shop here in Shibuya and in addition to that, we also hold exhibitions regularly to present products from particular parts of Japan. Let’s say that someone first encounters products from such a place here in Shibuya. Then this kindles their interest, just a bit, in the place that these things are produced. If they were to then actually go and visit that place, nothing would make us happier. If they took a copy of d design travel with them when they visited, I am certain that it would make the locals really happy too!
Q: I expect that Japanese crafts and design products are getting attention overseas as well. Are you thinking about expanding overseas in the future?
A: No matter how you look at it, our concept is most definitely about discovering long-life design that is unique to particular places. So, if we could have a partner-like relationship and work together to reflect on the local appeal of the place, we would definitely be keen. We are currently expanding overseas in two places: China and Seoul. If there is anyone out there who is interested in partnering with us and building something overseas, please do get in touch.
D&DEPARTMENT in Shibuya, Hikarie 8F
Through this interview, I’ve gotten a really strong impression about just how much there is in the way of unique characteristics in the different parts of Japan and how much we have in the way of craft products, not to mention this sense of perseverance that exists in your idea of long-life design and how much this has in common with Link’s production concept.
Tokyo Furoshiki & d travel magazine gift set