ISSEY MIYAKE’s new flagship store opens in Osaka

The recently opened ISSEY MIYAKE SEMBA was designed by Shingo Noma to reference its location’s heritage in creative and surprising ways 

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‘It took me a while to find the perfect soap shape,’ muses Japanese designer Shingo Noma. ‘I bought about 25 different soaps before I eventually found the right one, which came from an old Japanese soap company.’

The end result of Noma’s meticulous soap quest can be seen in the form of the dozen or so ‘soap sofas’, soft-edged backless forms in matte shades of white, grey and pale blue, scattered throughout ISSEY MIYAKE SEMBA, the brand’s new flagship store that recently opened in Osaka, western Japan.

Inspired by the theme ‘fount of creativity’, water-inspired motifs flow throughout the two-level space. At over 800 square meters, it’s the world’s largest ISSEY MIYAKE store, and is also the only store in western Japan to house all eight of the designer’s brands (new collections for each will be showcased twice a year). 

Noma’s overall design concept for the store taps into Osaka’s centuries-old relationship with the sea: hemmed in by water, Japan’s third largest city has long been intricately linked to its networks of waterways and strategic merchant routes.

And so there are countless playful touches relating to all things water — in addition to soap sofas, other details include ‘water pipe’ clothing rails crafted from stainless steel by Osakan metal artisans, a circular metal cash register that resembles an oversized plughole, a shower cubicle-like changing room, and the scene-stealing metal tap attached to the otherwise minimal facade.

It’s a fittingly fun tableaux for a store based in the Semba district of Osaka, a city famed for its down-to-earth sense of humour, as the store’s designer knows all too well. Noma, who spent close to a decade working at the design studio of Miyake’s long-time collaborator Taku Satoh, was born in Osaka (although he’s now based in Tokyo).

He highlights the Japanese word omoroi as another key ingredient in the design concept, which, as he explains, is ‘Osaka dialect for playful, fun and entertaining’.

But perhaps best of all is Noma’s careful balancing of the playful with a modern, minimal aesthetic. Stepping inside, the interior feels as light and airy as a glass of water. The expansive corner space has light grey concrete walls and floors, complemented by panels of mirrors, vibration finish stainless steel counters with clean-cut glass displays, and white strip lighting embedded into the staircase edges to guide visitors downstairs. 

Expanses of industrial concrete walls feature subtly abstract white markings that Noma describes as the result of a ‘happy accident’; he discovered the white glue markings after pulling off wall fixtures and column panels while renovating the space.

Part of the basement level is devoted to the Creation Space — a gallery-like area which will showcase experimental exhibitions and events relating to the Osaka region. The inaugural exhibition, titled Fount of Creativity and running until the end of October 2019, is by the charismatic octogenarian illustrator Seitaro Kuroda — also born in Osaka — who held an open studio in the gallery space during the store’s first week. 

Text / Danielle Demetriou
Images / Masaya Yoshimura, Copist. ©ISSEY MIYAKE INC.

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Interiors, ShopDesign Anthology