Much of Tanaka's work explores upcycled materials and transforms waste into new textiles. He decks the reimagined shoeboxes in textured washi paper, a material historically used by the Japanese for lampshades. The textile is formed by crushing paper scraps and other garbage into a raw paper mixture that was eventually shaped into the boxes. Each box boasts a distinctive pattern of blemishes, some resembling marble, above New Balance's signature branding.
The shoeboxes are currently one-of-one and will be showcased for Tokyo Design Studio's latest exhibition, “Cooperative Research Vol.01.” However, these prototypes are a reminder of the urgency of footwear's waste problem and that sneaker packaging is one of the most concerning aspects of that.
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), packaging accounts for about 30% of America’s trash by volume, or around 78 million tons per year, of which only 53% gets recycled. Some brands are beginning to recognize the problem, but what to do about their environmental footprint is an entirely different issue. Tanaka's approach could be a stylish starting point.
The "Yoshihisa Tanaka × Tokyo Design Studio Cooperative Research Vol.01" installation kicks off on November 20 at New Balance's conceptual T-HOUSE shop in Tokyo.