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A Japanese-Italian fusion reveal at Milan Design Week

Takeda Katsuya at his design studio in Milan with the BRACE collection
Takeda Katsuya at his design studio in Milan with the BRACE collection Copyright Copyright Saskia O'Donoghue
Copyright Copyright Saskia O'Donoghue
By Saskia O'Donoghue
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Designed by Takeda Katsuya's team in Milan and manufactured by Takehito in Japan, the BRACE collection uses wood from the Tochigi forest north of Tokyo in a sustainable and interesting way


Two of 2023’s Milan Design Week main themes are the use of sustainable design and innovative materials in furniture and homewares.

One of the best examples of those themes is the BRACE collection, a collaboration between Milan-based Takeda Katsuya Design studio, and woodworking masters Tatehiko, based in the Japanese city of Ashikaga.

Building on past shared projects, the BRACE collection is a new line of easy-to assemble furniture pieces, consisting of a side table, a low table and a shelf, all characterised by the company’s signature diagonal lines, adding to both the strength and aesthetic appeal. Each item is topped with a light, removable tray and can allow for different configurations and applications, adding to its versatility.

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The Takeda Katsuya Design studio in MilanCopyright Takeda Katsuya Design

Euronews Culture met Takeda Katsuya at his design house as part of Fuorisalone, the satellite show of the main Salone fair spread across Milan. The BRACE collection, designed by Katsuya's team and manufactured by Takehito, is also a display of cultural fusion between Italian and Japanese design and is very much a family - and friends - affair.

Katsuya and his wife, the artist and painter Iida Takako, met while studying in Florence and she lives between Milan and Ashikaga, keeping in constant contact with her husband on behalf of the Takehito design house and factory in Japan. The couple are great friends with the creative minds behind Tatehiko, which has been in existence since 1892 in the Tochigi Prefecture north of Tokyo.

Katsuya explains that the factory - which employs just 20 craftspeople - makes use of traditional techniques, passed down over the generations since the company’s founding. Each piece is handmade and the philosophy behind the company is that nothing is wasted; Katsuya tells Euronews the factory prides themselves on "using finite resources with utmost care". As a result, the pieces in the BRACE collection are all small offcuts from larger furniture designs which use Hinoki wood from the Tochigi forest.

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The BRACE collection on display at the Takeda Katsuya Design studio with an image of the Tochigi forestCopyright Takeda Katsuya Design

The wood has been used in the construction and furniture industries in Japan for centuries and is famous, despite its light weight, for its resistance, flexibility and deceptive strength. It’s considered a very precious material as Hinoki can only be grown in very specific environmental atmospheres, like the Tochigi forest, which has low winter temperatures, little snowfall and rich soils which are nurtured by moderate temperatures and rainfall. The forest offers an ideal environment for Hinoki cypress growth and makes wood from there especially prized.

The Tochigi forest also inspires the joints used to hold the BRACE collection together. Inspired by the shoots that grow from the ground, they’re made using a traditional Japanese architectural technique called Shiguchi which uses steel to provide strength despite the slim structures.

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A close up of the Shiguchi metal work on a piece from the BRACE collectionCopyright Takeda Katsuya Design

Katsuya explains that their slimness means they can be shipped worldwide in small packages, lessening emissions and working towards a climate friendly industry.

While the pieces in the collection are very much Japanese at their core, their simplicity and neutral colours mean they fit in well with bolder Italian design.

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Furniture pieces made from offcuts of Italian leather on display by master shoemaker Fukaya HidetakaCopyright Takeda Katsuya Design

The Takeda Katsuya Design studio also plays host this Salone to more Japanese-Italian fusion pieces, including those made by master shoemaker Fukaya Hidetaka, who uses offcuts of Italian leather from his larger creations to make furniture like chaise longues and flower vases.

The BRACE collection can be viewed at the Takeda Katsuya Design studio at Via del Torchio from 18 - 23 April.

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