It is always a pleasure when Tokyo manages to surprise you, and the recently renewed floors of LaForet Harajuku amongst other developments elsewhere in the city along Takeshita-doori and in Parco Shibuya to name but two, have got me excited about Autumn once again. The new direction in LaForet is led by the subculture focused basement with new stores from the likes of h.Naoto looking particularly strong, but left field additions such as the new Control Bear concept store actually proving the best food for thought. The Control Bear phenomenon snuck up on me quite quickly as I started to spot a distinctive decapitated teddy bear on t-shirts all over the city this summer, and before long the mysterious bear’s identity was revealed to me with an invitation to the opening reception yesterday and launch today.
The bear from artist Nagatake Uehara does not descend from any media as such, it is a character in and of itself closer in function to a logo. Whereas character goods, I use the Japanese phrase because the English approximate “merchandise” does not even come close to capturing the full meaning, usually descend from a cultural commodity, but recently thanks primarily to the work of Takashi Murakami, have become a genre in their own right. Interestingly the work of Takashi Murakami posited the idea as a means of delivering art through consumerism, whereas this brings the concept full circle as a commercial vehicle capable of producing art. It is a subtle shift, but especially at this level of the market, it feels completely natural and given the evident and immediate popularity without the high-pressure limited edition sales tactics used when this concept was big on the skater scene, it appears to be working.
The store is on B1F in LaForet Harajuku, and the highlight of the line-up for me is a t-shirt designed by Nozomi Ishiguro to mark the opening.
There were a couple of Nozomi Ishiguro designed t-shirts to choose from, and it was nice to see the bear distorted away from its very recognizable form.
But failing that, if you are in the market for a cute yet creepy bear than they certainly have you covered.
The Control Bear has now spawned an animation which I am sure will be available on youtube in the future – talk about coming full circle, and the keen eyed might spot some little references to Murakami’s work.
I have to say that Control Bear has pretty much pitched themselves perfectly in the market, the pricing is great and a million miles away from limited editions from BAPE where the price becomes the talking point. Instead it is accessible first, with the potential for added depth later, rather than setting itself up as a mystique that must exist solely because people are buying into it.
We have whole lot more fresh openings in Tokyo for you, so stand by for those very soon.