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October 19, 2017
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Akira Minagawa designed eight different uniforms for Tokyo Sky Tree personnel (Source: architizer.com).

When Scarecrow, Tin Man, Lion, Dorothy and her little dog entered the gates of the Emerald City, there was no doubt the Yellow Brick Road led them to the right place and something magical was going to happen. As the gatekeeper opened the doors, all the citizens in the merry old land of Oz were adorned in emerald green and grouped in uniform according to their roles. The men in the garden wore green hats, ladies of leisure stood in green sequined capes, straw-stuffers sported green "OZ" tees, and the barbershop girls were primped in mini A-line dresses with puffed sleeves, also in emerald green. Toto, I know we're not in Kansas anymore.

Facility guide uniforms
(Source: architizer.com).

A memorable exterior greeting echoed by a matching welcome committee is what a group of Japanese broadcasters plan to achieve with the Tokyo Sky Tree, the world's tallest free-standing broadcast center at 634m high (2,080ft). On the 200th day before the tower officially opens in Spring 2012, Tokyo Sky Tree operators unveiled eight different personnel uniforms designed by award-winning designer Akira Minagawa.

"I wanted to design such uniforms that would make the people who visit or work at Tokyo Sky Tree delighted about their time there," said Minagawa. "I hope people will remember the uniforms as part of their fun experience there." Colourful, patterned, and innately Japanese, Minagawa's designs are meant to convey the architecture and hospitality of Tokyo Sky Tree while reflecting the landscape of the surrounding cityscape and the fusion of futuristic design with the traditional beauty of Japan. He chose a colour palette of flat blues (the sky), grassy greens (the trees) and friendly yellows (the sun), while triangular geometry in the prints and profiles represent the shape of the Sky Tree and its muse, the all-season evergreen. Minagawa also ensured that the uniforms were made with high-quality, locally produced natural materials of wool, linen and cotton. Combining all of these elements give the uniforms a retro-futuristic feel or that everlasting Danish Modern style, signature to his brand Minä Perhonen.   

Minagawa's designs are meant to convey the architecture and hospitality of Tokyo Sky Tree while reflecting the landscape of the surrounding cityscape and the fusion of futuristic design with the traditional beauty of Japan.

As Minagawa draws inspiration for Minä Perhonen from his love for the lifestyle and culture of Finland, the name also originates from Finnish: "minä" means "I" and "perhonen" is "butterfly". Minagawa takes a unique and thoughtful approach to the craftsmanship of his clothing designs, textile production, weaving, printing and embroidery. His design philosophy is based on his belief that garments produced for a specific season in a specific year will become "useless junk" and so he strives to create durable pieces with an aesthetic merit independent of trends that can be worn for many years.   

Minagawa's enduring qualities are shared by the Tokyo Sky Tree as it aims to "create a new landscape that goes beyond space and time as a new symbol of tradition and the cutting edge". In addition to two observation decks - one at 350m above ground and the other at 450m above ground - the Sky Tree will house 300 shops and restaurants, an aquarium, a planetarium and a dome theatre. There are also plans to set up a sky walkway covered in glass around the second observatory lobby (altitude of 450m), enabling the world's highest walk to be enjoyed. (For those of us who share a fear of heights, this enclosed experience sounds more possible than the CN Tower's outdoor EdgeWalk at 356m high.) Utilizing Japan's advanced technology, the Tokyo Sky Tree hopes to not only be one of the world's most popular landmark attractions, but also "a new symbol of tradition and the cutting edge" and "the most striking in appearance and affinity". The perfect pairing with Akira Minagawa will surely help to achieve this goal.

Gift shop uniform
(Source: architizer.com).

Tokyo Sky Tree is not the only project to collaborate with a nationally representative and internationally renowned designer.  Kensington Palace recently announced that as part of the royal residence's £12 million transformation, they have commissioned British fashion house Jaeger (led by design director Stuart Stockdale) to create new uniforms for the front of house staff.  "Jaeger's modern take on tradition suited our desire to create a new uniform inspired by the history and stories of Kensington Palace and its unique collections," said Kensington Palace curator Deirdre Murphy. "Working with Stuart on this exciting design project has been a very rewarding experience. It has been fascinating to see how he has used the palace's historic architectural and interior design details, as well as elements of the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection to create completely new uniforms which are both contemporary and stylish." Their regal designs will be unveiled on March 26, 2012.

As architects and developers extend the structure and design of their buildings into a more personal message through uniforms, one can only wonder who will be next to bridge that thought into music. "Jolly good fun! Ha - ha - ha, Ho - ho - ho - and a couple of tra - la - las, that's how we laugh the day away, In the Merry Old Land of Oz!"

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