Formia created amenity kits for JAL with various Heralbony art adorning it.

Formia’s striking JAL amenity kits feature Heralbony statement art

Details and Design banner with text on graph paper backgroundHAMBURG — Bringing art into the cabin is often a regrettable exercise in blandness: vague abstractions in muted colours, timidity of shade, and almost apologetically milquetoast. Not so for Japan Airlines with its new set of amenity kits in partnership with creatives Heralbony and onboard product specialists Formia — these new kits just brim with bright colours and bold patterns. 

The partnership between JAL and Heralbony so far involves amenity kits made from six distinct artworks from six artists, all of whom are proudly featured in the materials surrounding the amenity kits, including with a large hero display on the wall of Formia’s stand at the World Travel Catering & Onboard Services Expo in Hamburg this year.

Heralbony, a word created by cofounder Shota Matsuda, is an art licensing social enterprise that, in its own words “ensures quality collaboration between artists with disabilities and enterprises from planning to production. Artists receive royalties when their art is licensed for projects.” 

The artists are standing in front of their designs showcased on the wall behind them.

The artists and their work are proudly linked to the entire project. Image: John Walton

Founded in 2018 in the northeastern prefecture of Iwate, the company is already working with companies across Japan, from rail company JR Central to hoteliers Hyatt and department store Mitsukoshi. The company says that, “through powerful art with narratives of their unique identities, we aspire to overcome prejudgments and so-called common sense that divide the worlds around us and will continue to showcase these radiant talents in every way possible.

Onboard, the colours really do radiate within the cabin, as this Runway Girl Network journalist experienced on flights with JAL earlier this year (for full disclosure, as a guest of the airline). 

Heralbony kits situated on the JAL aircraft business class seat.

Heralbony kits are already on board JAL’s business class flights. Image: John Walton

One of the brightest kits features artwork from Atsuhito Fujiki, a striking mixture of yellows, pinks, oranges and reds. Equally bold yet monochrome is Sanae Sasaki’s work, a series of irregular thick black circles that almost has a Marimekko feel in its organic shapes and repeated pattern.

The artist GAMON’s jagged shapes in vibrant orange, tan, yellow, purple, and green break up what might otherwise be just a pile of amenities on Mount Blanket when passengers arrive at their seat, while Tomihiro Watanabe’s greens and blacks give a real natural, forest-like feel to these kits.

Formia created amenity kits for JAL with various Heralbony art adorning it.Blues from Keisuke Mori’s striking multicoloured face portrait are cleverly transposed onto the sides of the kit by Formia, while the writing-like design from the artist marina’s work features on the top third of the final, black-and-white kit.

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Inside, elements from other social enterprises also feature, including a small smartphone stand and a USB cable. 

(There is also a first class lounge Heralbony partnership, with a signature collaborative cup-and-saucer combination featuring the art of Masaki Watanabe.)

JAL’s amenity kits have previously been much more on the conservative side: its 2019 versions featured blue or black pouches in partnership with French-Japanese brand Maison Kitsuné, or a menswear-inspired pair of kits together with Japanese clothier Beams. 

These Heralbony kits are a courageous and successful departure, with artwork that dares to stand out from the cabin around it rather than blend in. The uniqueness of each kit is as practical as it is artistically striking: with six different versions, JAL can offer inbound/outbound versions as well as different versions for different routes. 

It’s very creative, very Japanese, and also of course a very worthy partnership. There’s also a ten-minute featurette onboard the inflight entertainment system to tie it all together and give passengers more information.

But what feels even more different about this partnership — and innovative within aviation — is the focus that Heralbony brings to the art’s inherent worth and the artists’ control of their work, all the way down to seeking the artists’ individual permissions for the formatting of the reproduction of their art on the wall of Formia’s stand.

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Featured image credited to John Walton