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Onitsuka Tiger & Karolina Kling

The Newburgh Street branch of the cult Japanese sports fashion brand launches their new window display by the Swedish graphic designer

In enlisting Swedish artist, designer and illustrator Karolina Kling to design a store window, the legendary Japanese sports fashion label Onitsuka Tiger have created a quirky and eye-catching new display of art and illustrations in their store on London's Newburgh Street. Founded in Kobe by Kihachiro Onitsuka, the label have attempted to retain their Japanese heritage in the modern day. Whilst the brand will be reintroducing remakes of their Japanese archive footwear and apparel, the idea behind the display was inspired by the Midori concept (Japanese for the colour green).

Kling created a family of origami pieces - where five characters were inspired from Gods and Idols depicted in a book that she found in Kyoto last year, using the same original shapes but applied her own graphics, made from thin cardboard and thick paper. The Midori collection is a new concept line that translates their intrinsic Japanese influences through to their footwear and apparel items with the idea of sustainable materials in mind. We spoke to Karolina about her new designs and her inspiration behind the work...

Dazed Digital: What were the main inspirations behind the window display?
Karolian Kling:
I wanted to create a window expressing a Japanese feeling, using natural materials and because it was a window display for the Spring collection drop, it had to communicate spring, green, nature. So I decided to use paper and make characters inspired by Japanese gods and using origami technique. Even if the origami has been overused, trying to create something something with a slightly new approach by using my graphics. I went to Tokyo and Kyoto recently and got this amazing origami book that my friend got me in Kyoto, showing really funny different origami figures, so that was a perfect inspiration source. As a lot of my work is based on different characters, using the different gods to create these figures was a perfect start.

When I went to Tokyo I organised an exhibition with HEDMANKLING (which I'm running with Sofia Hedman) and created characters for the set design inspired by Mexican masks. The Japanese audience thought these were created from the Japanese mythology as they looked identical to many of their gods. So, when it came to the graphics and prints I used to cover the origami characters for the window, I realised even something as far away as south American tribes could look Japanese in the right environment. So I tried for the window to use the same style that goes in line with lots of my other work and I think it suited really well.

DD: How did you incorporate the Japanese heritage of the brand into the creation?
Karolina Kling:
It's always a balance of how much of the clients identity you choose to bring into your creation/work and let it leads the final result, but of course I tried to keep in line with the brands expression and my feeling of the brand. So what I made for the window is a bit more sleek and quiet that what I create normally, and I also had to take in consideration to not block to much of the window and not make anything to big, even though I normally love to use really big scale and over dimensional set designs.
DD: What five words/phrases sum up Onitsuka Tiger for you?

Karolina Kling: Strong identity. Repetitive graphics. Athletic history. Japanese and close to nature. Clean aesthetics.

DD: What else are you working on at the moment?
Karolina Kling: I just put up a solo show in Denmark called 'Kling to the Wild', where I have have done a woven carpet covering the hole space and folds up and creates different characters inspired by south African tribes and graphics. The walls are covered with really detailed black & white illustrations. Besides that I'm planning the next exhibition with HEDMANKLING that will take place in London and part of the "Shades Down in Tokyo Town" tour. I'm also planning to go back to products and drop a smaller range this year. I'm always open for collabs and to combine my graphics together with other designers' handicraft, so that's also something I'd like to do more this year - collaborations. I also work freelance with print designers and at the moment I'm going back and forth between my client in Sweden quite a lot. So, a good combo...