‘Fab spaces’ update fashion: Giving shape to ideas using digital devices attracts designers

The Yomiuri Shimbun

A woman shows a floral motif printed onto artificial leather shoes using a UV printer at KLC Craft Lab in Taito Ward, Tokyo.

By Miki Yabuki / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer “Fab spaces,” where anyone can make their creations using digital machines such as laser cutters and ultraviolet (UV) printers, have recently increased in number. These facilities make it easier for young designers and creators to give their ideas concrete form, drawing attention as places to produce new fashions.

The name “fab space” comes from the word “fabrication.” According to a survey by web media Fabcross, there are 120 fab spaces across the nation, up by 40 from the previous year. Many of them charge users several thousand yen per hour to use the space.

At FabCafe Tokyo in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo, a 3-D printer and other tools are available. Designer Megumi Minakawa makes wooden accessories, stationery and other products using a laser cutter and sells them on the internet.

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  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

    Shoes made with a UV printer and other tools at KLC Craft Lab

  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

    Designer Megumi Minakawa, center, makes an accessory using a laser cutter at FabCafe Tokyo in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo.

  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

    Some of Minakawa’s accessories made at FabCafe

Inputting data into the machine makes it possible to accurately cut even complex shapes with a laser beam. “I can make products with designs that are difficult to cut out by hand, so the range of my work has expanded,” Minakawa said.

Another fab space, Makers’ Base in Meguro Ward, Tokyo, has about 6,000 registered members, including designers and students, offering a place to enjoy making things. Junpei Matsuda, the manager of the facility, regularly holds a product development contest. “I hope people will use the place not only for making things but also for putting their work out into the world,” he said. Prize-winning creations such as cushion covers and bags have even been commercialized.

KLC Craft Lab in Taito Ward, Tokyo, is a facility operated by Kobe Leather Cloth Co., which manufactures and sells shoes. The company makes the facility available to the public for a fee while also using it to produce its own products.

The company’s own brand, IROnna, includes artificial leather shoes featuring floral motifs and photographed images of night views, fruit, chocolates and other subjects. To produce these shoes, a UV printer capable of instantly fixing pigments with ultraviolet rays is used to print such images on the shoes. “We can quickly make test models based on ideas and images,” said Aya Kumamoto of the company’s new product development and sales division.

Gakuto Ochi, the deputy chief editor of Fabcross, said: “Recently, digital machine tools have had an impact on fashion, as seen in trials of making clothes using a 3-D printer, for example. They are also good for producing small quantities, making it easier to respond to the diversified needs of individual consumers.”Speech

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