The design fair Interior Lifestyle Tokyo may have suffered from the earthquake fallout last year, but it's back with fresh vigour for its 22nd outing. Serving up kitchen and tableware, interior accessories, textiles and more, the exhibition has been reimagined, refocused and bolstered by a stronger offering of homegrown design - thanks to a panel of creative directors.
Last week we journeyed to the Tokyo Big Sight fairgrounds, lured by the prospect of being surrounded with what Japan does best: time-honoured craftsmanship with contemporary design sensibility. We were more than rewarded for our travels. Aside from bringing together other Messe Frankfurt ventures - textile fair Heimtextil and consumer goods showcase Ambiente - Interior Lifestyle Japan debuted Japan Style, a touring exhibition of home collections that give classic production techniques a modern spin.
Handcrafted design and quality of materials was emphasised time and again throughout the fair. A big highlight came in the form of Kazuko Ito's series of cardboard bags for designers and architects, conceived in collaboration with paper producer Earthwork. Ito's collection is part of an initiative by the Niigata Industrial Creation Organization (NICO), which aims to make an art out of using traditional skills to modern ends.
Meanwhile fledgling manufacturer Case Ground caught our eye with its series of furniture with a 1960s feel (as well as its collection of vintage Braun products). Case Ground's display was part of the Next exhibition, a launch pad for young design talent.
Taking a different, but no less interesting, tack was the Movement exhibition, which showcased manufacturers that once specialised in industrial products but now focus their expertise on interior design. Among these was a company called Tidy, once known for its hospital cleaning products, which now produces a collection of pleasingly packaged solutions for domestic use. It may not have been one of the fair's most glamorous offerings, but it serves as a good example for a fair that takes practical design seriously.