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“Biéde In Motion”

With backgrounds in planning for iconic Japanese fashion brand Comme des Garçons and archiving for the art industry, Tokyo-based consulting office Kleinstein run by Yusuke and Miki Koishi are real-deal intellectuals with a drive and aim to bring art, fashion and performance to the forefront of cultural consciousness. Kleinstein and Koishi, which both mean “small stone” in German and Japanese respectively, are paradigm shifters and cultural disruptors who thrive on doing things their own way. 

Performance

“Biéde in Motion” with performances by Hana Yamamoto and Nina Utashiro

Place

Node Hotel, Kyoto, Japan, April 15, 2023

Words

Paul McInnes

Nina Utashiro in “Biéde in Motion.” Photograph courtesy of the artists

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In fact, I've never met a creative pair that hold so much control over a brand, from the advertising and the location of the artisans that make the material to craft their handbag range to the photographer and background narrative for each collection. Kleinstein is becoming one of the most important agencies in Japanese fashion and culture with an enviable roster including heritage sneaker brand Novesta, Mylo Slovakia (a herbal skincare brand) and genderless accessories label Biéde which weaves and incorporates artisans and artists from a disparate array of disciplines and locations. 

For Biéde's latest collection the creative duo decided on Kyoto's annual Kyotographie arts festival as a location and the city's Node Hotel as the space to experiment. Node Hotel has become, over the years, a creative hub for local and visiting artists and performers and in April, the city's cognoscente descended on the hotel to celebrate the performance event titled “Biéde in Motion” featuring performances by acclaimed flutist Hana Yamamoto and emerging rapper and musician Nina Utashiro. 

The performance “Biéde in Motion” was inspired by “Umegae,” the 32nd chapter of The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu. The performance explored how the scene would look if “Umegae” were updated for modern society. For starters flutist Hana Yamamoto performed, inspired by fue (the flute) in the scene from “Umegae.” The new Biéde incense product, which was also being released, 32 Umegae, was based on the “Umegae” scene from The Tale of Genji in which people brought their own incense to compete in a game called “Takimono-awase.” 

Nina Utashiro in “Biéde in Motion.” Photograph courtesy of the artists

Biéde commissioned the singer and performance artist Nina Utashiro and her team to use eight bags and eight objects during the experimental show, including a mirror, book (Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami), musical scores of “Chant de Linos” by A. Jolivet, a small geometric part of a buddhist chandelier, an antique map from France from the 19th century, sunglasses, a notebook from Cheval Blanc Paris and purple flowers, implying the existence of Murasaki Shikibu (the author of The Tales of Genji). The small black object, reminiscent of an enigmatic item in David Lynch's Mulholland Drive, is a Buddhist tool that can also be used as a paperweight. 

With the stage set and the space being imbued with the new incense range (perhaps a nod to Biéde's emergence as a small but expanding independent lifestyle brand) Utashiro began her nymph-like dance, picking up and inspecting the various objects, using the book as a kind of traditional Japanese fan or uchiwa, the German-Japanese rapper and performer skipped and strolled around the stage before writhing on the ground, legs in the air creating shapes and dimensions before grabbing a handbag and strolling around ceremoniously and with purpose. What Biéde does here is create a contemporary scene which is fused with artifacts and symbols from Japan's rich cultural past.  

Nina Utashiro in “Biéde in Motion.” Photograph courtesy of the artists

Performing in front of a mirror, child-like and naive, Utashiro makes several motions of flight and almost floats and twirls and twists her way throughout the objects. Sunglasses are picked from a bag, put on and off as objects are grabbed and cherished like jewels. Biéde, which created all the objects and the costume worn by Utashiro, a beautiful incandescent yellow dress, creates a whirlwind of shapes and complements Utashiro's simple and understated performance. Her tattoos shine and indicate a change in acceptance in Japan which, until recently, has shunned body art and ink in general. As Murasaki Shikibu was a real cultural trailblazer in her day (over a thousand years ago) so is Utashiro in the modern day as she raps, dances with fury and purpose and is sure to be a global superstar in the coming years. 

What Biéde is attempting here is a new way of seeing, a new vision of performance which incorporates fashion, branding, dance, music, narration and music. Not particularly easy to comprehend on first viewing, with a variety of elements and cultural and historical symbols being used to great effect, “Biéde in Motion” was a real event with a curated list of attendees from the various industries involved from fashion to dance. On the surface perhaps, it was an event and performance to celebrate the release of a new collection by Biéde and a new incense product. On another level it was a calculated and successful performance which merged and intertwined various artistic and creative disciplines in order to make a statement about culture and how culture is used in contemporary society. 

Nina Utashiro in “Biéde in Motion.” Photograph courtesy of the artists

With a dazzling performance by Utashiro, crafted and curated products from Biéde, mysterious narration by Yusuke Narita, music by Yongsi and Lyo Taniguchi, “Biéde in Motion” was a real artistic triumph and due to its location in Kyoto, an ever-so-slightly subversive dig at Tokyo, which is usually the preferred location for these kind of events. Kyoto should never be overlooked and is emerging once again, with Node Hotel as its cultural and fashionable epicenter, as a force to be reckoned with and a tangible zeal of excitement and creativity with dance and performance as its creative face. 

The performance ends with Utashiro walking out of the space, after a performance with the stage full of objects and an audience who couldn't quite grasp or immediately understand what they had just seen. “Biéde in Motion” will stay with us and flashes of this performance return as they suddenly make sense and link with the other performance signifiers. A beautiful night of art, of dance, of music, of fashion and creativity and the underlying feeling that we have only just started to hear about Biéde as a creative and artistic force. More is definitely to come. 

Paul McInnes


Paul is the senior editor of Tokyo Weekender (TW) which is a popular English-language lifestyle magazine based in Japan. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Metropolis magazine. He has previously held contributing editor and writer roles with publications including The Japan Times, Monocle, The Telegraph, Time Out, The SPIN OFF, Tokyo Art Beat and acted as Japanese cultural advisor to British analysis specialist Stylus — which serves global industry CEOs. He has also worked and consulted for leading European fashion retail websites Tres Bien (Sweden) and NOUS (France). Paul holds an MA in English and Theatre Studies and an MPhil (Distinction) in American Studies from the University of Glasgow.

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