TOKYO: Literary Style – Sonia Rykiel and Other Local Names Get Bookish.

Beauty Library designed by Nendo, Aoyama

Put it down to the continued influence of Woody Allen-esque geekiness on Japanese fashion (“This magazine is for nerd only” declares the current issue of women’s monthly Cluél), but bookishness is the key element in a trio of new Tokyo concept stores and an emerging men’s label.

In tony Aoyama, Sonia Rykiel’s new flagship resembles a sensuous take on a learned academic’s study, with sumptuous carpeting – featuring artwork by André Saraïva, who conceived the space with Rykiel artistic director Julie de Libran and System magazine art director Thomas Lenthal – paired with a multitude of floor-to-ceiling bookcases rendered in the same vibrant red as the walls and ceiling.

Beauty Library

Sonia Rykiel flagship, Aoyama

Sonia Rykiel flagship, Aoyama

In the same district, multi-disciplinary Tokyo design practice Nendo has deployed the bibliographical theme more conceptually. At its recently completed commission for Beauty Library, which is as minimal and sleek as Rykiel’s space is evocative of storied old tomes, organic beauty and food products are merchandised library-style, with shoppers invited to take down products from the “bookshelves” then leisurely browse them while sat at a desk. Tablet devices enable visitors to seek in-depth info on the inventory without any need for a “librarian”.

The Toranomon area east of Roppongi meanwhile is seeing an upsurge of activity following last year’s opening of the towering Toranomon Hills development. At the new ‘Doors’ store from hip domestic chain Urban Research, a sizeable corner is given to UR’s new bookselling project Somosomo Books, with around 3,000 tomes displayed on fixtures and fittings from Gelchop, which has previously worked with the likes of Sacai and Dover Street Market. This is something more cerebral than simple visual merchandising, stresses UR: a common theme of the books stocked is that they explain the very essence of things; whether that be fashion-related or weightier matters. In the former case, apparel products are displayed alongside publications detailing their origins and significance.

Menswear label Mojito (photo: Loftman Company)

Somosomo Books at Urban Research Doors, Toranomon

Finally, a look around the American trad-inspired Beams Plus store in Yurakucho (opened in 2014, and itself themed along the lines of writer Ernest Hemingway’s summer residence) reveals the literary influence to be evident in an up-and-coming Tokyo menswear label too. Mojito, from designer Hirofumi Yamashita, is named after Hemingway’s tipple of choice and consists of a tight collection in which each intriguingly detailed piece takes subtle inspiration from the author’s stories and turbulent personal life. Available only in Japan for now, but a brand to watch. –Darren Gore

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