Nendo, Japan's most innovative young design practice, brings Far Eastern forward thinking to an eager European audience.
Ever since Oki Sato's design collective Nendo made its first appearance at the Milan Furniture Fair's show for design fledglings - Salone Satellite - in 2003, Europe's leading manufacturers haven't stopped knocking on Nendo's door. It is the youthful energy and an open-minded enthusiasm for modern techniques, combined with a deep respect for traditional refinement that has established Japan as a bastion of elegance over the centuries, bringing Japanese design to the attention of companies such as Italy's iconic furniture producer Cappellini.
The architecturally trained Sato met fellow members Akihiro Ito, Koichiro Oniki and Yusuke Hara in 2002 while studying in Tokyo and found fame less than a year later as winners at Tokyo's premier design event, Designer's Block. As a collective, the group covers many disciplines, such as graphic and product design, as well as architecture.
At this year's Milan Furniture Fair the group presented Bloom Room, a sumptuous garden of divine white Hanabi lights. Each sublime white shade, carefully formed as a flower made from memory metal, delicately unfurls its petals, spreading rays of light. With such quiet elegance and an endearing tale for each creation, Nendo has captured the attention of the great and the good of design, both at home and internationally. The company is currently working on projects with Swedish manufacturer Swedese and De Padova of Italy, as well as restaurant design for a project in London's West End.
What do you think of Japanese design at the moment?
Many people and companies are becoming interested in Design. They are beginning to realize that design has the potential to make something better.
You've worked with manufacturers from all over the world. What are the differences in manufacturing and design?
I feel that Swedish manufacturers tend to take a longer time to develop, and try to sell as long as possible. With Italian manufacturers everything is fast, more like fashion – they tend to try to make trends. In Japan it depends on the manufacturer. I don't think there is a Japanese way right now.
Are there any similarities?
Yes, European manufacturers know their strong points very well, and concentrate on using them.
Who would you like to work with?
Issey Miyake. I sympathize with his approach toward design. We may do some design work together in the near future.
What would be your ultimate dream project?
To design a space station.
What is your definition of luxury?
If luxury were an object, what would it be?
A natural material.
If it were a place?
If it were a moment?
Whenever I design.
If it were a person?