Japanese designers call Brooklyn the Land of the Rising Fun

Saved: Kiichiro Ogawa makes stuff from salvaged material, like this chair made from discarded manga magazines and scrap plywood.
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Forget turning Japanese, the Japanese are turning Brooklyn.

BKLYN Designs, a design convention running this weekend in Dumbo, is usually limited to Brooklyn designers. But this year it features a group of Japanese designers who were inspired by our borough — even if they’re a bit fuzzy on the details.

“Nowadays in Japan, Brooklyn is like a brand,” said Shigekazu Yasuta, a designer and professor of design from Osaka. “They love the lifestyle. But most don’t know where Brooklyn is.”

Yasuta has been coming to design shows in New York for 10 years, and what struck him first about Brooklyn designers was their use of salvaged materials.

“I was so impressed by the use of sustainable materials,” said Yasuta. “At the time, no one was doing that.”

He likes the Brooklyn design scene so much that he brought 10 young Japanese designers along on his trip this year so they could see what Kings County creators are turning out. And work from Yasuta’s protégés is now being showcased at BKLYN Designs.

“We want to build a bridge between Dumbo and Japan,” Yasuta said.

Kiichiro Ogawa is one of the Japanese designers at the show. He likes to salvage materials that normally end up in a landfill, and uses them to make something useful. He brought a chair constructed of salvaged plywood and discarded manga comic books, and some rain coats made from old umbrellas.

“It’s a waste of materials when these things get thrown away,” said Ogawa through a translator. “I want to use them.”

BKLYN Designs runs May 9–11 in five locations around Dumbo, including St. Ann’s Warehouse, Brooklyn Roasting Company, and the Mark Jupiter Showroom. Sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce, the eleventh-annual design convention features furniture, lighting, and home accessories made by 60 Brooklyn designers, in addition to the Japanese imports.

The chamber’s president, Carlo Scissura, said the guest designers demonstrate how far the borough’s creative community has reached with its work.

“Our friends from Osaka have taken the idea of Brooklyn and integrated it into their own designs,” Scissura said. “It is a recognition that Brooklyn has become a global brand that has cache people not only want to be associated with, but are inspired by.”

Yasuta is a huge fan of Brooklyn. His favorite neighborhood right now is Bushwick, because so many young designers live there, but his affections for the borough aren’t limited.

“But I love everywhere in Brooklyn,” he added.

Yasuta comes to New York once a year, and spends all his time on this side of the East River. He has not gone to Manhattan in a half dozen years. He just like Brooklyn better.

“People here are very warm and friendly,” he said. “Not like Manhattan, where it’s cold.”

Reach reporter Matthew Perlman at (718) 260-8310. E-mail him at Follow him on Twitter @matthewjperlman.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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