For its Fall 2011 campaign, Palladium places Pharrell Williams front and center in Tokyo Rising, a short documentary series directed by Thalia Mavros that chronicles the rapper and producer’s exploration of Japan’s creative capital in the aftermath of this year’s earthquake. Last night, Williams hosted an intimate gathering at Manhattan’s Hiro Ballroom, where he celebrated the world premiere of the film and campaign.
Tokyo Rising showcases Williams’ encounters with Tokyo musicians, artists, and fashion designers as they recount the terrors of that tragedy while also emphasizing the rehabilitating nationwide unity it inspired. Throughout the documentary’s five short segments , the entertainer is clad in Palladium’s footwear as his personal journey expresses a new chapter in the brand’s own legacy of “urban exploration.”
“We reached out and explained that we wanted to travel to Tokyo during one of the most important times in the city’s recent history, ” Mavros tells Rolling Stone. “When other people are leaving Tokyo or simply not visiting, we wanted to explore how the young creative set is rising to meet the challenges of the 3/11 disaster — and to ask the question of what comes next for this city that is known for its resilience.”
She describes some of the participants’ reactions to being filmed as “reticent,” while others were more open. “But ultimately once we talked about what we were looking for, everyone was open to speak to us.”
One of the interviewees in the film, Bedwin designer Masafumi Watanabe, describes Tokyo’s innovative spirit as its most definitive quality, and the city’s ability to be a creative thought leader its most immutable feat. “We make this city interesting,” he says of his fellow artisans. He also comments on the community’s resourcefulness and ability to reinterpret Western style ideas: “We take culture from everything.” However, art director Sebastian Masuda adds: “We used to have a tendency to elevate foreign cultures over our own. That’s changed.” The film then cuts to a colorful shot of the city’s inimitable Harajuku district, which inspires pop stars like Gwen Stefani and Nicki Minaj.
In recent years, Western pop culture has cultivated many Japanese-inspired pop notions, especially in how it regards art and fashion. Indeed, this film collaboration likely resonates on a personal level for Williams. Calling the city “his second home” in the film, he has long demonstrated an affinity for Japanese aesthetics in his forward-leaning music videos and minimalist production style. An admitted eco-friendly science geek, Williams’ branding work for his clothing label, Billionaire Boys Club, incorported many Japanese-born tech fabric innovations. Meanwhile, his collaborations with Bionic Yarn and Moncler channeled the work of Tokyo artists Takashi Murakami and Keita Sugiura.
“There [is] a new sense that Tokyo and its youth are at a crossroads,” Mavros reflects. “There is a social and political awakening, and a fire that wasn’t evident ever before.The next 10 years will be exciting to watch as an ancient culture transitions into a new phase of its history.”
Stream the first part of Tokyo Rising:
Photos courtesy of Palladium