By  on October 27, 2009

TOKYO — Bottega Veneta has launched a furniture design competition for students at The University of Tokyo.

Bottega Veneta creative director Tomas Maier was in town to review the 18 contenders’ initial sketches and outline the project to local journalists.

“I’m always a Japan lover and I’m always a Japan believer,” Maier said at a press conference at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. “This country has a very high sophistication and a tradition of beauty, craft…that has always inspired me. That is why I am here.”

Maier said he asked the students, who are all pupils of famed architect Manabu Chiba, to design a piece of furniture that serves a function for someone sitting down. Students are now in the process of refining their proposals before the field is narrowed to 10 finalists. The three winners will be chosen in December.

The following month, the three winners will travel to Bottega Veneta’s atelier in Vicenza, Italy, where they will inspect the design prototypes being built for them. In April, they will present their projects at Milan’s Salone del Mobile as part of Bottega Veneta’s Japanese-themed presentation. During the weeklong event, Bottega Veneta’s Milan headquarters will host an exhibition of Japanese crafts and a pop-up store featuring special items from Japan and the Italian house.

The three competition winners’ designs will be available for special order through Bottega stores and be on display in Ginza later next year.

Bottega Veneta has made efforts to cultivate the next generation of artisans and designers, even going to the extent of opening its own leather goods making school in Vicenza in 2006, but this is the first time the brand has worked with a university. Maier said he wants to continue the contest and take it to other countries around the world.

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