Brooklyn is huge in Japan, at least in Osaka, the country’s third largest (and food-obsessed) city. Brooklyn Roasting Company has an outpost there, and this year 11 designers from Osaka will be the first ever from outside Brooklyn to show their work at BKYLN Designs. Aside from their obvious talents, the biggest ace the designers had in swaying the selection committee is the fact that they might be the biggest Brooklyn boosters out there who don’t actually reside in the borough.
More than 5,000 people from around the world are expected to descend on Dumbo this weekend. BKLYN Designs is where interior designers, museum curators and fans of fine furniture and decorative objects go to discover new trends and eyeball beautiful work. For foreign designers who make the trip, the three-day event, which now sprawls across the neighborhood and includes everything from lectures to yoga classes, is often their first encounter with Brooklyn’s design culture, as was the case for Shigekazu Yasuta seven years ago.
“Every year, I travel to many design exhibitions–Paris, Koln, Milano, New York, London, Tokyo,” says Yasuta, who teaches interior design at the Osaka Women’s Junior College in Japan. “Many are based on commercialisms and less focused on highlighting new contemporary or cutting edge design–this is why I love to watch BKLYN Designs evolve each year.”
Yasuta, who organized the envoy of designers from Osaka, isn’t just an instructor, he creates intricate wood-panel designs for interiors, and says that he identifies with the desire to produce handcrafted, sustainable, original work that’s become so synonymous with Brooklyn design. It’s a common thread in the work of the Osaka designers as well, who create everything from skateboards to salvaged furniture and even terrariums–staples stocked in boutiques across Brooklyn from Bedford to Van Brunt.
One of the Osaka designers, Hiroyuki Ogura, helped design the Tokyo outpost of Brooklyn Roasting Company–the coffee company’s Jay Street location will serve as exhibit space for the Japan@BKLYN Designs showcase, starting May 9. This will be his first trip to Brooklyn and he has his sights set on visiting another local design landmark–the Wythe Hotel.
“To provide an existing building the care of repair and restoration is a beautiful thing,” he says.
From hotels to hipsters, salvaged furniture to CSAs, the Osaka designers say they’re curious to see how Brooklyn stacks up to a reputation that is preceding it across the planet. “Brooklyn is one of the big trending keywords in Japan,” says Yasuta. “We have many Brooklyn-like shops, cafés etc., but only a few people know where it is, know its philosophy and know Brooklyn’s real lifestyle. Japan@BKLYN Designs hopes to be the connection between Brooklyn and Japan.”