Posts tagged daijiro recs
Prague's Creative Boom of the 90s

Photography was always a part of life and a family tradition for Alena Kotzmannova. Taking pictures was a hobby her parents and grandparents also enjoyed, transforming their apartment bathroom into a dark room of her childhood home in the 80s. But for Alena, traditional photography was just the start. She tells us, “I wanted to study photography, but I didn’t want to study at the film academy because it was limited to classical studies.” Alena was more interested in pushing the boundaries. She tells us she wanted to, “cross the boundaries between photography, video, and experimentation with new technologies.” Today, she explains that this is common but when she was in school programs that crossed disciplines didn’t exist—she had to carve her own path.

Education was not the only area in which Alena was at the cutting edge of the arts in Prague. As a young creative in the 80s and 90s, Alena was part of an important moment in the history of Czech arts scene. She tells us she felt fortunate to be, “part of a major boom of a creativity after the revolution.”

She tells us:

“After the revolution everything was new—nothing was established. We all worked together to build the atmosphere. There were lots and lots of art openings - every day. It was a very important time. You could suddenly see some work of artists who didn’t exhibit during communist time but now you were seeing these secrets and surprising works that until that time were hidden. It was a really special atmosphere and it’s hard to compare to today. Then, there was such a focus and a common expression.

There was this special mixture of “old Prague” which wasn’t renovated and it was kind of empty so I remember I was going across old town square at 5am and it was completely empty and I went from school to home because I developed photos throughout the night, and you could stay there all night and you just had a key (which is impossible now) and Prague was still the Prague you know from the old photos but the atmosphere was changed and enthusiastic.”

Alena’s 20+ year career has taken her all around the world exploring thematic questions such as place, identity, and memory. On her website, she explains one of her most recent collections The Wing Just Leaving The Desert, stating, “the most important quality of our memory is the subjective ability to forget, meaning to determine what is important and what is not. This regeneration of memory allows us to reorganize lived and stored experience and thus to see things anew and differently, from a different perspective.”

For Alena, the memory of Prague in the 90s is nostalgic, her memories full of passion and excitement for the creative energy of that moment in time. She describes the city today as having become “a very touristic place” but asserts that there are still some “hidden surprises that can appear in special situations.”

One of these places is in Prague 4, “down by the river.” This area has served as inspiration for one of her installations entitled, 193 Meters Above Sea Level. As a landlocked country, Czech Republic relies on the imagination of the sea, rather than the sea itself. She explains that, “I think that people who have the sea just as imagination, they have the ability to imagine more about it than people who live right on the edge of the land and sea.”

Purchase a beautiful book of Alena’s photographs here


Behind Japan's hottest new fashion label: mister it.

“Do you know the Japanese concept, Iki? There’s no translation, and it’s very hard to explain. But it’s a part of our culture and style.”

Here’s what we learned. Iki is to be cool, but understated. A small detail. Human, subtle, but surprising. “It’s not a big oh wow, but it’s a small approving head nod.” When you realize it, it’s really special.

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"Women often hold a baby over the arm, so this detail is placed so that the baby’s eye will catch the mark. It's Iki."

Takuya Isagawa designs are really special. We met at his studio, in a building filled with creative-types, to learn about his journey to launch his fashion label mister it.

Takuya’s story as a designer began as a young boy in Osaka.

As is often the case for a younger sibling, admiration for his older brother and a subsequent introduction to the world of sneakers quickly grew into a deep passion for fashion. “When I was six years old, I tried to dress like my brother. At first I just wore cool sneakers and a cap. But it wasn’t long before I wanted to make something myself.” 

As soon as he made the decision to be a designer, he had a singular drive: to study in Paris and to work for his favorite designer, Maison Martin Margiela.

He did just that.

Takuya finished his fashion studies in Paris and won first prize for his final collection. Even so, he was worried because he did not think he was proficient enough at French to land the dream job.

But he didn’t let that stop him.

He enlisted a friend to help him prepare for the interview. “I memorized the presentation in perfect French” and he landed the job he’d always wanted at Maison Martin Margiela. And a dream it was! Takuya told us that the team at Maison Martin Margiela felt like family, and always welcomed him even though he admits, “I still couldn’t speak French well." 

When he eventually left the job to launch his label, he wanted to show his gratitude to his teammates. Collection 00 from mister it. was not for the public, but rather was designed for ten specific people - a gift to his former colleagues. Each piece was thoughtfully crafted specifically for each person. The four images below feature examples from this collection. Takuya describes these as (1) an outfit to highlight one of his friend's tattoos, (2) an integrated eyeglass chain for a forgetful friend, (3) an ironic McDonalds joke, and (4) pants that make walking impossible. He explains the pants saying, "when I was working at Maison Martin Margiela, I was running all the time. But for the launch of my brand, I designed pants for myself as a symbol. I wanted to stand still so I could simply watch and be grateful."

 
 
designer clothing

Takuya's inspiration always come from those right next to him, from the people he knows. He describes, “the importance of this work is for more than just beauty. My idea is to make things for real people. The brand’s concept is this simple.” The pieces combine of functionality with design and put the person wearing them at the center. He intends to make pieces that will be cherished. "My hope is that these clothes can last for a very long time. If people take care of them, they can last almost forever. These are things you keep wearing and even pass down through your family."

You can find mister it. products in multiple locations in Japan! His pieces are available at EDITION, n id a deux, VISIT FOR and ocaille

Please take a peek at their website, misterit.jp - we guarantee that Takuya Isagawa and his label, mister it., will soon be well known names in the fashion world.


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Inside Kyoto's Mysterious Modern Culture

Most Kyoto guidebooks suggest visiting the city’s stunning shrines, ancient temples, and traditional teahouses, but the advice seems to stop there. As a visitor, it is tricky to tap into modern Kyoto—a place with a rich sense of tradition, a culture of patronage, and hidden pockets of arts and music.

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Enter Sara Aiko, founder of Curated Kyoto, a travel company dedicated to providing visitors with a deeply personal experience of the city.

Sara Aiko, founder of Curated Kyoto

Sara Aiko, founder of Curated Kyoto

We chatted with Sara at Walden Woods Cafe, a coffee shop designed to emulate the feelings evoked from Thoreau's writing. Yes, it’s places like this - thoughtfully designed spaces and experiences - that make Kyoto, Kyoto. Sara explains, “I don’t like using the word unique to describe a city, because every city is unique. But it's the only word I can use. Kyoto is very unique, even in Japan.”

Throughout history, Kyoto has been the cultural hub (in addition to being the actual capital for over 1,000 years) of Japan. Walking through Gion, viewing manicured gardens, and visiting the beautiful shrines is truly awe inspiring. As Sara says, so much of “the charm of the city” lies in the commitment to preserve culture, heritage, and tradition.

However, it is the delicate combination of both past and present elements that Sara finds so inspiring about the city. She tells us, “Kyoto really knows how to mix modern elements and traditional elements together. That's why I love the city. They still have the old, but know how to make it relatable to people. That's really hard to do. It can easily become tacky, too modern, or too cool and lose that charm. But in Kyoto, they know how to do it in a subtle way.”

Subtle is a word often used to describe the city. Sara says, “Japanese culture is subtle, but Kyoto is particularly subtle. This includes communication here. We're not very loud. Even our design and creativity is subtle.” But she is quick to add, “but there's an edginess to Kyoto as well that's being created by the younger generation. It’s just starting to pop up.” Sara explains that due to a relatively low cost of living, “people feel like they can focus more on freedom of expression rather than what will sell commercially.”

Gion, Kyoto

Gion, Kyoto

Sara describes these new modes of expression as, “Freedom. A way of expressing without conforming to the Kyoto way or Japanese culture. Japanese culture is very rule based. These artists have given themselves permission to be more themselves.” Y Gion is an example of a new space that aims to support this emerging scene. The multipurpose venue was started by Takuma Inoue to bring the creative community together. Despite the prominence of galleries and cafes, there previously weren’t places for artists to go and feel free. Thanks to people like Takuma, that’s starting to change.

There is so much to discover in Kyoto, but much of the scene remains under wraps. As an outsider, Kyoto remains mysterious, sublime, and fascinatingly unique. If you want a chance to peek into the creative side of Kyoto—a place that is growing a creative culture in a respectful, but modern way, we recommend reaching out to Sara and to book a personalized experience at Curated Kyoto. She gives a view into the side of Kyoto that just can’t be found in a guidebook.

 


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Best Cozy Coffee Shops in Japan

Coffee across Japan is excellent. Many of the Third Wave coffee houses are tiny havens, where a masterful cup of coffee is hand poured with a ritual-like attention to detail. Coffee experiences across the country feel like art. 

What can be a bit harder to find is a cafe (that serves excellent coffee) and is big enough to read a book, chat with a friend, or scribble ideas in your notebook.


Osaka

Salon De Amanto (Nakazaki)

Hop up to Nakazaki and after meandering through shops and the beautiful narrow streets, don't miss this 120 year old house. What started as a cafe, is now a central fixture of arts and culture in Tokyo.  

 

Kyoto

Cafe Independants

This charming homey cafe embodies the Japanese "Wabi Sabi" in both decoration and ambiance. Set down a mosaic staircase, this arty environment is sure to inspire.

Walden Woods Cafe

In contrast to Cafe Independants, head South some contrast to dark, head to the crisp, clean space to enjoy a cappuccino on their minimalistic benches.   

 

Tokyo

Daikanyama T site (Daikanyama)

Disclaimer: you’ll be drinking Starbucks unless you head upstairs to the cafe but trust us, it’s worth it. Find your perfect nook among the three buildings and browse through a magazine or book. 

Hattifnatt (Koenji)

Sometimes you just want to feel like a kid and this spot delivers. In what feels like a colorfully illustrated treehouse, you can even climb a ladder and sit up in the loft as you enjoy your treats. 

Mois Cafe (Shimokitazawa)

You might think you're walking into a friends house at this converted old house as you walk up a wooden staircase and settle in. 

 

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