September is always a busy month in the world of hip-hop and rap music, and this year's calender month marks another landmark period for the booming genre, with a host of big releases attracting attention. Amongst the release schedule, three records in particular standout, namely, Kid Cudi's debut LP Man On The Moon: The End Of The Day, Jay-Z's star-stuffed The Blueprint 3 and Wu-Tang mainstay Raekwon's long-awaited Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... Pt. II. Yet although those first two records are securing the bulk of press hype, it's Raekwon that's seemingly walked away triumphant from this rap battle royal, delivering an album of blazingly fierce rap.
Whilst Raekwon's competitors have been focussing on dressing up their records with head-scratching concepts (Cudi's Man On The Moon is divided into five acts with Common narrating the action, go figure) and an overload of big name guests (Kanye West, Rihanna, Drake, Young Jeezy and even Empire Of The Sun make appearances on The Blueprint 3), Raekwon gets down to business on OB4CL2. The infamous Wu-Tang rapper sounds entirely uninhibited on the record, letting loose some serious lyrical fire throughout. Of course, there's a few hook-ups with producers like Dr. Dre and the late great J Dilla, but beyond that, the record is a reminder for all who'd forgotten that Wu-Tang Clan and especially Raekwon are as potent and essential as ever. - Dave Ruby Howe
Learning to ride a bike is one of the most valuable skills a child can learn, helping them master the art of balance, a skill crucial to so many other physical activities and sports. UK based Kiddimoto has created a range of cute-looking wooden bikes which are designed to teach young children precisely that - balance. The slimline, lightweight birch plywood bikes are easy steer and manoeuvre and feature proper rubber tyres, providing a smooth ride for little bottoms by gliding across outdoor surfaces.
The Kiddimoto range comes in four styles, each based on a motorbike classic. From the 'Scooter', inspired by the mod scooter of the 60s, and the 'Chopper', a nod to future Easy Riders, to the Super Bike, based on real race bikes and the Srambler, a more traditional bike shape - the range has something for every dad, we mean, kid to get into. Now there's a thought. Do they make them in adult sizes? - Lisa Evans
Japan is a hot-bed of out-of-the-box creativity and retail design is one of the areas in which it excels. The latest store with more is the new Patrick Cox boutique in Tokyo's Aoyama district, a mecca for fashion.
Local architect Chikara Ohno designed the store using only three elements - the color white, the circle shape and lighting - to great effect. Forming a canopy, huge, cylindrical pendants hang from the ceiling resembling imposing sculptures that also illuminate the products perched just below on cylindrical counters, lit from their bases.
Ohno's design demonstrates the power of simplicity. By working with a few key elements and playing around with proportion he has achieved a dramatic space that also stays true to its function - which is of course to cast the merchandise in the best possible light - pardon the pun - so we are compelled to buy it. - Lisa Evans
You’re in a difficult position when you find a new band and are ready to swear your undying love to them but you find out they’ve released one solitary song. You don’t know where they’ll go from here, you don’t know if you’ll even like it when they do because of you listened to that one little tune around fifty times already. Undeniably, you’re in a quandary. I know the feeling. For the last month we’ve been playing to death a track called Look At Me by UK synth-poppers Mirrors. It’s filled with pillow-soft synth bubbles, chilly atmospherics and glumstruck vocals which result in a resolutely stunning three and half minutes. But it’s not enough. As is common with such cases of new-band fixations, we had to know more about this enigmatic four piece.
As it turns out, Mirrors are as shrouded in mystery as their music, with scarcely little about the band yet to be revealed other than that they came together following the unfortunate conclusion of Mumm-Ra. “Since the growth of the Internet as a promotional tool, bands have become extremely accessible, and the mystique has vanished,” Mirrors says. “Mirrors aim to preserve that sense of mystery. Everything about us is presented subject to our vigorous aesthetic. What might be expected with other bands, we do not expect from ourselves.”
Beginning with such a bold and ambitious declaration as that makes it clear. Mirrors know what they want. Call it calculated, but I’d call it considered. They’re constructing an environment around the band itself, which, like Look At Me, is frighteningly easy to become immersed in.
“Our aspirations are to make a sort of electronic soul music,” Mirrors reveals. “. Individually, we had all come from a background of traditional pop music, and each of us felt as though we had taken it as far as we wanted to. Gradually we started falling in love with the seemingly limitless possibilities of electronic music as well as those artists that have managed to imbue stark electronic sounds with emotion and feeling.”
From here, Mirrors confirm that their next move is to reward the faithful and get out some new material. “We’re currently working towards an album’s worth of material. The process is very slow as we effectively build our songs in the studio, piece by piece until we have something that fits the band aesthetic. It’s very methodical, but it works. We want to alter the way people approach commercial/pop music. We want pop music to be an experience, not just a song.” Sounds like a plan. – Dave Ruby Howe
We love a fine wine, especially when it can be ingested in as thoughtful an environment as this one. Welcome to Merus, a "designer" winery like no other. Located in the Napa Valley in California, Merus looks more like a Michelin-starred restaurant than your average cellar-door retail outlet. Exposed beams are the only nod to the past in this interior design strategy, which is thoroughly modern with a hint of Californian warmth.
Amsterdam-based Uxus Design is the architecture and design firm behind the winery. With more than a few inspiring, high profile projects under its belt, Uxus is one of the Netherlands' hottest design studios - with an office to match.
It's been a busy year for Uxus, who have unveiled a number of other great retail design projects recently including the new Heineken 'concept' bars which will open in airports across the globe and one of Europe's coolest McDonald's play areas in Amsterdam. - Bill Tikos
See also Design Wine
Tokyo-based architect, Shin Ohori, and his firm General Design Co, have recently completed a beautiful private weekend residence in the mountains at Kawakami-mura, Minamisaku-gun, Nagano.
Ohori designed the recreational property, titled Mountain Research, for his friend, fashion designer Setsumasa Kobayashi, who also owns Tokyo’s Cow Books (also designed by Ohori.)
And that explains the odd name for the retreat. Setsumasa’s fashion line used to be called General Research but it is now known as .......Research, with the dots being a placeholder for the defining word of each season’s collection. The Spring 2009 collection was called Mountain Research, and its namesake mountain hideaway is the place where Setsumasa and team dream up most of the brand’s fashion ideas.
Life takes place mostly outdoors at the Mountain Research. The various functions — kitchen, storage, bath, wood shelter — are located in nearly separate, simple structures, all resting on a multi-level platform. The material of the structures is local pine, and the owner hopes that the buildings will eventually biodegrade into the mountain soil and return to nature’s endless cycle of re-creation.
The one stark exception to this woody serenity are the two permanent, bright yellow sleeping tents (made by North Face), located atop of the building. The entire retreat has a feel of a casual, classy and unpretentious camp that has all of the conveniences of modern life. A perfect environment for a creative brainstorm. - Tuija Seipell
While the airline industry remains fiercely competitive through price wars, company's real ammunition should be found in the point of difference offered in their inflight experience. Oddly however this leverage is never taken advantage to its full potential as in-flight-experiences rarely stray away from offering a stock-standard service to their customers.
An airplane is of course transportation, and not a hotel, spa or restaurant, but we have been waiting for a long time for the first airline that is willing to embark on true differentiation. Taking cues from cool architecture, leading-edge design and the vibes we see ahead of, and outside of, trends, The Coolhunter is now working on creating truly cool airline experiences, giving premium-class passengers a real reason to select one airline over another.
Bred from the very culture that has made The Cool Hunter an international success, TCH is offering its insight in the world of trend forecasting to the airline industry to create a truly unique and progressive in-flight experience. The Cool Hunter will curate the design, aesthetics and functionality across on-board entertainment, furnishings and decor right through to re-inventing on-board shopping, all with the signature style that has placed The Cool Hunter in the forefront of style.
Airline Marketing Managers should contact [email protected] for more details.
Here at the industry arm of TCH, our agency Access collaborates with some of the world's best companies to help them stand out from their competitors. We specialize in developing ideas to help brands move into the new, niche Cool Age.
We also develop ideas to take TCH into the offline space, starting with TreeLife and now our Pop-Up skate park.
This innovative concept sees art, design and extreme sports collide creatively in an awe-inspiring, customized skate park entirely unique in the skating world. Using pop-culture icons and the latest trends, the Pop-Up Skate Park by TCH creates ultra-cool skating environments, designed to garner the ultimate media exposure through their incredible appeal and popularity.
Currently, we are creating two Pop-Up Skate Park themes – Transformers and Space Invaders — both ideal promotional media for high-energy brands that want to attract serious attention.
For Transformers Skate Park, we commissioned Christiann Klaassen and his amazing team from Rockhunter in London to visualize the recreational and promotional space where design, technology and skate culture meet with a cool Skate Park.
This is a fully customizable skating environment, designed for each specific location’s surroundings, and incorporating a range of innovative ramps, bowls, half-pipes and landings.
Two oversized Autobot Transformer robots, impressively positioned at either end of the skate park, signify guardianship of the ramp and those who use it, echoing seamlessly the Transformers film concept of robots protecting humans.
En all-encompassing landscape of illumination and light-projected designs enhance the skating environment. There is also the option of showcasing a range of rotating art works to further emphasize this hyper- real environment.
Space Invaders, in turn, are arguably the biggest pop-cultural icons of the 80s! The original characters that introduced the world to the realm of video gaming through their pixilated aesthetics, enjoy the unique advantage of multi-generational appeal. Globally, from children of the 80s through to Generation Y, the public has recognized and appreciated these characters for their cool simplicity.
The Cool Hunter is taking these alien invaders and super-sizing them for their unique skate park. A pair of larger-than-life Space Invader characters frame the two ends of the skating environment. Made from translucent Perspex, these illuminated figures create the visual masthead for the Skate Invaders Park.
The skating surface itself reflects the playing environment of the original 80s game. This design comprises of illuminated alien ships, fighter units and laser beams as seen in the games architecture.
The entire Skate Invaders environment will be visually enticing and provide innovative user functionality for Skate Invaders. Skate Invaders has been rendered by Per Krogsgaard and Jason Idris Alami from What!
If your brand is ready to launch a Pop-Up Skate Park by THC in your city, get in touch.
Mini Cooper by TCH is also another project we'll soon announce online.
How can TCH work with your brand on innovation and creating new brand experiences worth talking about? - get in contact with Access Agency.
San Francisco duo Girls are masters of simplicity. From their love of stripped back and fuzzed-out garage rock tunes to their deliberately direct album title (it’s literally just called Album) Girls keep everything simple and immediate, and it really works for them.
On Album, the duo of Chris Owens and Chet White traverse through a set of sun drenched San Fran tales, from top-down roadtrips, to hazy trip-outs and wistful bust ups. While that might come off as a bit scattered, Album never feels ill-considered, and really Girls are just in a rush to move onto their next creative spark, never fussing over their production credentials or instrumentation.
As it stands, Album is pretty much perfectly of the moment. Whether you’re in the Southern Hemisphere and starting to head into the warmer months or you’re in Northern Hemisphere and are already feeling nostalgic for the fading summer moments, this is for you. – Dave Ruby Howe
1948 is Nike’s creative playground-retail store in the old brick railway arches of Shoreditch, London. In addition to displaying and selling shoes, 1948 offers an entire art floor for events, installations and assorted fun.
The installation created by Finland-born illustrator/artist/designer Kustaa Saksi is all about the historical fun journey of the Nike running shoe. Typical for the currently Amsterdam-based Saksi, the sprawling scene has a pop-art, retro feel that fits Nike’s history as a brand. Saksi’s Volkswagen van and psychedelic colors illustrate the pre-swoosh era in an earnest and deliberately clunky way.
Saksi’s last name translates as “scissor,” or it could also be “Saxon,” depending on your preference. He is proficient in many media, including print, sculpture and now also more frequently 3D. Saksi has also designed massive building wraps, and even clothing and wallpaper. His book, Offpiste (2008), is a visual feast of his recent work. In addition to Nike, Saksi’s client list includes Comme des Garçons, Citroen, Diesel, Issey Miyake, Lacoste, Levi's, New York Times, Mercedes Benz, MTV, Playboy and Wallpaper. - Tuija Seipell