500 square metres of the 65,000 square metre biannual fashion trade event Prêt à Porter Paris is dedicated to Explosion de Modes, an inspirational trends area. The trade event in Paris – one of the global fashion industry’s most important events – showcases more than 1,500 global fashion brands, runway shows and art installations, and receives 45,000 visitors over four days. The theme for Autumn-Winter 2010 will be ‘New Generation Cities’. 

Tokyo, Rio, Stockholm, Los Angeles and Paris were selected by Explosion de Modes curator, Alexandra Senes, as the world’s new wave of urban influencers. Each city is to convey current consumer and societal trends within the parameters of an 80 square metre space. And within this fraction of space, the Japanese consumer research and trend forecasting agency Five by Fifty,  is tasked with recreating the inspirational diversity and contradictions of Tokyo – the world’s most populous city.

Playing with the five senses for a contextual experience, the agency has assembled a cast of collaborators to capture and recreate the pulse and spirit of Tokyo. The collaborators include sound designer Yasuharu Ohkouchi, musician Jeff Wichmann, film creator Stuart Ward and scent creator Kaori Oishi.

But how do you capture both the vastness and detail of a city in 80 square metres? Nicole Fall, trend director of Five by Fifty describes how “after defining Tokyo’s essence, we had to turn these words into something that represented a physical space. It seemed intuitive to make sense of Tokyo by using the five senses. In chronological order, we started with city noise, or what we called, ‘The Soundtrack to Tokyo’.” Listen by clicking the following link: Soundtrack


Five by Fifty recorded 100 unique urban sounds – the birdsong in Yoyogi Park . . . trucks reversing . . . the music that plays at 5pm to serve as a warning for children to go home . . . trains running on the Yamanote Line . . . the Bic Camera jingle – and then sound designer Ohkouchi layered these sounds to create a story of his own.

“The music starts with a young man arriving from Narita, riding the mainline train into Shibuya station as the cherry blossom petals fall onto windows,” Ohkouchi explains. To add to the composition, the sound designer collaborated with Wichmann, an experimental composer and musician who blends the koto with other instruments to form new sonic sculptures. 

Wichmann describes the recorded koto sounds as figurative sensations of spring and fall in Tokyo. “I tried to create sonic vignettes to mirror cascading sakura petals in the wind . . . rain drops on one’s umbrella and the sidewalk . . . fading leaves and echoes of summer memories. Within these audible sculptures are the emotions of hope in spring, and beautiful sadness in fall.” 


Ohkouchi processed these sounds and then added the WAV files recorded from Tokyo’s urban soundscape to form the original soundtrack that will accompany the film made by Stuart Ward for the exhibition.

So what actually is a ‘new generation city’? For trend director Fall it means promoting a socioeconomic and creative model that challenges the Anglo-Saxon urban paradigm of the traditional ‘western’ city. “Tokyo is constantly reinventing itself. Ever since the total physical and emotional destruction of World War Two, the city has had very little sense of nostalgia, instead always focusing on technology, modernisation and improving the daily lives of its citizens.”

“I would like people to get a better understanding of what Tokyo represents, rather than the clichés and nonsensical news that usually makes it overseas, like the loligoths. By using the five senses as a reference, people will hopefully experience the dynamism and literal assault on your mind and body that Tokyo offers. It truly is an overwhelming city – both in a good and bad way – and the space will hopefully go some way in encapsulating this with its challenging soundtrack, scents, visual images and tactile elements that we have collated.” 

Fall chose five areas in Tokyo – Saragakucho, Naka Meguro, Jingumae, Shimokitazawa and Aoyama – that she believes to be the most influential in providing fashion trends in Japan. At a convenience store in each area she bought products that represent each neighbourhood’s character, and then asked scent creator Oishi to develop a fragrance for each area. 


Fall will also be bringing some typical Japanese snacks with her to France – familiar in Japan, but not necessarily known in Paris – to assault the taste buds.

“The reason I chose convenience stores for inspiration,” Fall explains, “is that statistically most people shop at a convenience store at least twice a week, if not every day. The importance of convenience stores in Japan cannot be underestimated so I wanted to demonstrate how the convenience store’s product offerings change according to an area’s demographic.” 

Trying to describe and convey the spirit of Tokyo means discarding the rulebook. As Fall says, Tokyo is a paradox. “It is both friendly yet alien, crazy but serious, modern yet traditional. And if that sounds like a cliché, the paradox is that it’s true.” 

New Blood Agency will showcase Stockholm through photography and arts, Renata Abranchs and Tiago Petrik are in charge of curating the essence of Rio, and Alexandra Senes (who is also the editor-at-large for the Jalouse group of magazines) will direct the Paris space. Los Angeles based GOOD magazine – ‘for people who give a damn’ – will represent their city.

To see how each city experientially packs its punch in 80 square metres, visit Prêt à Porter Paris from 30 January – 2 February 2009.

[Photos taken by Nicole Fall of Naka Meguro, one of the areas featured in the exhibition.]

This is a post by David Report contributor Kristina Dryza.


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