tokyo: specimens of time

© ling meng

ling meng is a young chinese artist based in shanghai. interestingly, he has worked as a software developer for two years after getting a bachelor's degree in computer science, and he continued to pursue a postgraduate education in australia. upon his return to his native china he started a career in advertising and eventually became a digital art director at leagas delaney in his hometown. but meng is still very much flexing his creative muscle on a personal level, and this has led to his current exhibition – mind you, it's his very first solo show  at diesel art gallery in tokyo. entitled specimens of time, and curated by kimiko mitani woo, it features meng's entire collection of nature elements, such as plants, flowers, and ore and soil samples, all preserved in a way to capture a specific moment. as a result the collected materials are imaginitively presented, crossing over into the field of art direction. this presentation is supplemented by meng's previous typography and graphic design works, and installation piece [on through may 22]. location: diesel shibuyacocoti building, 1-23-16-b1 shibuya [shibuya].

© ling meng

moscow: björn restaurant opening

© björn / photography: jan coomans

these days, moscow's well-heeled may not be splurging as much on trophy fashion items and self-pamper trips abroad as they used to, they're still living the good life on home turf. and there's one industry that hugely benefits from this changing consumption pattern: the capital's hospitality scene. against all odds, new upscale bars and restaurants, often with a distinct design concept, continue to pop up all over town. a recent arrival onto the hospitality scene clearly shows the city has moved on from the heydays of ostentatious and garish venues, and instead understated design is becoming appreciated on a wider scale than ever before.

we're talking björn, a new gourmet eatery on moscow's rive droite which has not only adopted scandinavian cuisine, but also a clean and sobre aesthetic to match. the restaurant is divided into two separate rooms, respectively seating 60 and 30 guests, in a monochrome setting of soft grey and brown that features exposed brick walls and a series of pale timber surfaces. specific attention has been given to the furniture, which consists of one elongated wooden bench, paired with sturdy tables and differently designed wooden chairs imported from denmark, as are the rows of identical light fixtures by lightyears.

as said, the cuisine at björn is distinctly scandinavian, concocted by chef kasper gaard, a young and very able dane with a wealth of culinary knowledge under his belt both in denmark and abroad, and his colleague, chef herman medvedev. the two serve a variety of dishes, using meat, poultry and obviously fish, all with authentic flavours and using predominantly local produce and ingredients. so, whether you'll opt for the fillet of deer, baked mackerel or pancakes with homemade icecream, it'll timewarp you straight to the nordic homelands, if the setting hasn't pulled that off already. location: ulitsa pyatnitskaya 3 [zamoskvareche].

© björn / photography: jan coomans

superchat paris: jumpei seki

© 1ldk paris - jumpei seki shows off his understated style

now a steadily expanding lifestyle store chain, 1ldk took tokyo by storm when it first opened up shop in naka meguro nearly six years ago. despite the market's fiercely competitive dynamics, it has managed to carve a niche position with a very considered concept that pairs timeless, well-designed lifestyle products with a unique retail context. after opening a string of stores in the homeland, 1ldk has ventured abroad for the very first time, opening an outpost in the city of light. we dropped by the new store during men's fashion week's previous edition, to meet with general manager jumpei seki and have a chat about his company and its particular retail vision. shop manager shotaro aoyama, a longtime resident of paris and well-connected in the fashion and retail scenes, kindly joined in to translate and fill us in on a slew of noteworthy facts about the company.

can you elaborate on how 1ldk came about? well, first there was i.d.land company, it's the parent company of the 1ldk stores, and has been operating for quite some time in the japanese fashion industry, manufacturing garments and accessories. the company's owner, mr fukuzawa, wanted to set up a retail division, and that became 1ldk. a complete retail concept was drafted, outlining the interior design, the goods that would be carried, basically everything. but the main idea was to create an appealing context for a collection of lifestyle goods. the name 1ldk is actually an commonly used abbreviation in japanese real estate, meaning ‘one living room, one dining room, one kitchen’, and is a standard configuration of most apartments in japan. our store concept is a playful take on that, and the first 1ldk store in naka meguro actually opened in such an apartment.

with the merchandise you offer you propose a new kind of standard to your clients. what exactly do you mean by that? that's right. you see, when i turned 30 i began to realize that the fashion industry is simply too much about cycles and trends, and i just wanted to reverse it all by going back to a basic style that would nevertheless still be fashionable, but less prone to the volatility of fashion. in other words, we aim to create a different view on fashion with products that have an increased longevity. this means that we create our fashion items as staple designs, and we'll tweak them whenever we sense there’s a need or demand to do so.

what is the profile of the 1ldk customer? we’re already well-known as a lifestyle brand in japan, and our customers are generally regular people from all walks of life and from all age groups. you should know that we don’t target a fashion-conscious demographic. interestingly, our japanese stores cater to a lot of foreign shoppers as well. on another but related note, i frequently travel to paris for fashion week, but i’ve never encountered the kind of merchandise that we offer in japan over here. so, i was thinking that it might be a good opportunity to open a store in paris. opposite to a varied merchandise at home, we carry only men's collections here in paris. we'll feature five of six select brands from japan, supplemented by just a few foreign brands.

are there any trends you see happening in japan at this moment that are relevant to you and 1ldk? i look beyond volatile trends and focus more on a general vibe of a generation of people. with the info distilled from that we update our carefully considered design standard.

why did you choose to open up shop in paris and not elsewhere in europe, say, in london or berlin? as said, i’ve been to paris many times before, so i’ve gotten to know the city quite well. i’ve been to other places in europe, such as london, stockholm and copenhagen, but only once. i’m far less familiar with those cities. paris i know best, and opening a shop here felt just natural and the process leading up to it has been very organic. there wasn’t a business plan behind it. the same actually counts for our overall retail operations, and how all of our stores in japan came about. the store locations are often referrals by our friends, as is the case for our shop here on rue de la sourdière. we were tipped off by a friend who initially wanted to open a flower shop here.

but there’s already such a business further down the road, and local regulations prohibited him to go ahead with the plan. the place just felt right, and i simply proposed my plan to my boss. on top of that, i really liked the architecture, which is simple and clean, and it's very compatible with the 1ldk aesthetic. the interior design was done by another friend. we showed him a bunch of pictures of the existing stores in japan to let him get acquainted with retail identity. and he simply took it from there. except for one or two things that we brought from japan, everything has been made here in france, or has been sourced from here. but i've had a personal say in the design. for example, this table top that we found, the flip-side is now on top because the rougher surface looks much cooler.

what are 1ldk’s plans for the future, is there anything you can already share with us? we’re very, very happy to have opened this shop in paris, but we’re already thinking of opening a second store here, most probably on rive gauche

paris: givenchy store opening

© givenchy

with the visionary riccardo tisci at the helm, givenchy is riding high on the wave of global success. after a string of flagship stores openings at key cities abroad, the french luxury brand shifts its focus back to home turf, and launches a flagship store dedicated to its men's collections in the heart of the marais district of paris. measuring a sizeable 465 sqm. [5,005 sq.ft.] ground floor space on a premium stretch of real estate - a rare feat in this part of town in terms of size - it's indicative of a new influx of high-profile luxury brands into an area that was previously known for its small independent boutiques and premium brand stores. the interior design of the givenchy store has been a personal project of tisci, and blends the luxury brand's design codes with a innovative interventions and eclectic pairings.

concrete walls are beautifully contrasted by expansive ceilings clad in timber, and the flooring playfully skips from vinyl to classic parquet and back again. wall-mounted shelving units are back-lit and paried with wooden displays and cabinets. the setting in the back of the store, reserved for shoes and accessories, is a tad less formal and features walls lined in glazed white bricks. an extra large persian rug in the center of the store references the brand's a/w 2015 runway show. the new givenchy men's store carries the full range of men's apparel, bags, shoes and accessories. location: 13 rue des archives [marais].

© givenchy

new york: björk

© one little indian - still from the all is full of love music video [1999]

icelandic pop siren björk, known for her groundbreaking creativity in music, performance and just about anything she gets her hands on, has been bestowed with a retrospective at moma in new york city. the show, opening sun - mar 8, is going to be a mindblowing ride down memory lane, exploring björk's 20 years as an artist, and a highly multi-tasking one at that. it starts with her eight full-length albums and multiple collabs with directors, photographers, designers, artists, and other experimental practitioners, and culminating in a new, immersive music and film experience commissioned by moma. on display is a complete chronology of sounds, videos, objects, instruments, costumes, and images that express the artist’s overarching project: her music. chronologically, the exhibition begins with the release of björk’s first mature solo album, debut, in 1993, and proceeds through her career up to her most recent work in 2015. location: moma, 11 west 53rd street [midtown].

© nick knight + wellhart ltd. + one little indian - volta [2007]

berlin: local store opening

© local

very much a hidden gem, local is a quirky little store tucked away deep inside an inconspicuous courtyard in berlin's kreuzberg district. opened a little while ago by simon freund and philipp sumpff, it features a compact retail space dipped in a pristine white hue. the aesthetic is d.i.y. chic yet executed with a meticulous eye for detail, and reminiscent of many appealing independent stores we've come across in the land of the rising sun. local carries is a range of lifestyle goods, sourced from all four corners of the planet and selected for their craftsmanship, quality and design. but certainly not at random, no sir! the local boys firmly believe in carrying like-minded brands and in the value of locally manufactured goods, hence the store name. as a result you'll only find products on the shelves that have been produced in the country of the brand’s origin, all created with passion and in an ethical way. the offerings at local are contemporary and varied, and range from men's apparel and homewear, to grooming products, interior products and general lifestyle goods. the quality is very much reflected in the brand list, which currently includes names such as tanner goods, noble denim, binchotan, field notes and simon & me. location: fidicinstrasse 17 [kreuzberg].

© local

online: hiro clark

© hiro clark

capturing the spirit and energy of los angeles with a bit of a wink, apparel brand hiro clark has put a cool spin on what's widely regarded the city's uniform. its collection of limited edition t-shirts are made from high-quality cotton jersey, and emblazoned with carefully selected screen prints and texts. hiro clark's designs are often themed and regularly feature collabs with leading photographers. the collection has just been updated with a new and stylish batch of graphics and imagery that give off the inimitable socal vibe. mind you, all hiro clark tees are exclusively available online.

© hiro clark

london: balmain store opening

© balmain

balmain is back on top. creative director olivier rousteing's brazen sense of style and the much-publicized chummy liaisons he has formed with some of today's most iconic stars in music, fashion and tabloids, have made the fashion house bounce straight back to premium relevance. this glorious renaissance is also reflected in balmain's retail network as new boutiques are opened to keep up with the rising demand. and the latest addition is a boutique in london's upscale mayfair area. located on the ground floor of a late 19th-century townhouse in red brick, it measures a sizeable 125 sqm. [1,346 sq.ft.] and boasts a sophisticated interior design by paris-based architect joseph dirand.

the design concept is an evocative one, based on creating a parisian townhouse worthy of being a be a pied-à-terre for pierre balmain, the founder of the historic fashion brand. dirand applied some tweaks to reference the neighbourhood, and blended in elements from the aristocratic queen anne revival style. doors, ceilings, mirrors and a large stone fireplace all reflect the classically sober english style. the stone floor’s striking geometric design, created with beige thalas and grey hainaut stone, is a modern take on traditional english parquet patterns. additionally, dirand created furniture pieces inspired by mid-century french furniture designers andré arbus and jean royère. the new balmain boutique carries the brand's full range of women's and men's apparel, denim pieces, bags, shoes and accessories. location: 69 south audley street [mayfair].

© balmain

london: create.destroy.create

© darren black 

cosmopolitan by nature and with a keen visual interest in his surroundings, darren black's trajectory towards professional photography was inevitable. very much part of the urban scene, in whichever town he chooses to be, darren easily connects and navigates to find all that he finds snap-relevant. not surprisingly, he's booked an endless list of campaigns and editorials for illustrious brands and magazines. pretty much a jack of all trades, black continuously reinvents himself and his latest incarnation is that of a collage artist. opening thu - mar 5 [6pm-10pm] at dalston superstore in london is his first exhibition in that capacity. presented by arthole and aptly entitled create.destroy.create, the show pretty much reflects the outcome of a rampage through his archive of work to present, deconstructing and re-assembling photos and go full steam ahead in the name of unadulterated creativity. and as you can see, it's pretty awesome. location: 11 kingsland high street [dalston].

© darren black

tokyo: blue bottle café opening

© blue bottle / photography: andrew curry

founded in oakland in 2002 by entrepreneur james freeman, blue bottle has become a cult protagonist of quality coffee, opening a number of popular cafés – some even with an on-site coffee roastery – on the u.s. west and east coast. totally fussy about coffee, blue bottle's appeal is based on a product that's superfresh, and served in cool setting that has the feel of a neighbourhood's extended living room. a cool extended living room, to be precise. the company has now ventured abroad for the very first time, introducing its coffee retail concept to tokyo's discerning palates. occupying a 7,000 sq.ft. [650 sqm.] ground floor space of a converted printing factory in the kiyosumi area, blue bottle's newest outlet is certainly big enough to include a roastery, ensuring a daily supply of the prized black liquid. the interior design is courtesy of jo nagasaka of schemata architects, a tokyo-based practice familiar with and known for an austere, industrial aesthetic. not surprisingly, much of the printing factory's original elements have been retained, and next to the aforementioned roastery and a coffee bar, it features a kitchen and office space. blue bottle's new roastery will serve as the base for future expansion in the greater tokyo area. mind you, an additional café is slated to open in leafy aoyama later this month, while in daikanyama a coffee corner is planned. location: 1-4-6 hirano [kiyosumi].

© blue bottle / photography: takumi ota + andrew curry