The resonance of nature
In Perspectives, we visit people who are experts in their fields,
interact with their diverse ways of thinking, and learn through creation.
The setting for Volume 6 is Denmark. Sony product designer Takuya Motoishi who works in the Sweden office went to meet Satoru Inoue, the older of two brothers born and raised in Copenhagen who created the design studio The Inoue Brothers.
What did Motoishi come to realize in his discussion with Inoue, practitioner of a high-end form of Alpaca knitting rooted in both the cultures of Japan and of Northern Europe which he calls "Scandinasian design?" What did he learn? Read on to know more about these revelations, and about his subsequent workmanship effort with a renewed sense of spirit.
Sustainable and organic.
What else would you expect?
Sony Product Designer Takuya Motoishi
Inoue is a really passionate person. His concept remains consistent, from the fashion brand of The Inoue Brothers to the Jah Izakaya & Sake Bar restaurant in Copenhagen. He doesn't deviate. Words like "sustainability," "organic," and "ecological" might be somewhat trendy in Japan these days, but Inoue practices them as a way of life. These sentiments originate from his heart, manifest in the actual things he creates, and are the driving force behind his business. From his attitude and the enthusiastic way that he talks, it was clear that he is always thinking of ways that society can be better. To him, that's just the way it should be.
When I saw the garments made by The Inoue Brothers, what really impressed me were the reinforcement parts at the seams. Inoue pointed out that "if a garment tears, it starts at the seams," and their seams reinforced by recycled cowhide parts. These parts serve as their brand value proposition that no matter how high-quality garments might be, the workmanship is meaningless if they tear easily and have to be replaced. At the same time, these cowhide parts are iconic symbols that identify garments as The Inoue Brothers products as soon as you see them. I thought it was very natural and also quite amazing how these reinforcement parts which are meant to make garments last, also serve as their brand identity without needing to sew on any logos.
Incredible beauty just the way it is
Actually, very little of my discussion with Inoue was about how clothing looks. Rather, we talked quite a bit about how to discover natural materials, how to develop them, and how to present them to the people of the world. Instead of starting with an idea of something to make, it’s more about fully utilizing the qualities of things that already exist and maximizing their value. Expressed in terms of cooking, it's like putting together a menu with seasonal ingredients when you harvest them, then calling your friends over to enjoy a meal. His design is about asking how to take the incredible natural beauty that he finds and share it with everyone just the way it is. I found it reminiscent of the way we at Sony think about how to use our design capabilities to take new technologies that we have in-house and release them to the world.
This experience made me rethink what workmanship actually is. The job of a designer is to sort out various issues such as how to make things user-friendly and how to produce them, then get them into people's hands. However, this conversation with Inoue reminded me that designers also have a "core" element that must be unwavering. Designers are responsible for pursuing the ultimate inputs and expressions, whatever the situation. If your workmanship does not add anything to the lives of the people you reach, it has no meaning.
True to the form it was found in
What I have created this time is a wearable musical instrument composed of natural materials. When you go camping in the mountains or by a river, all of the sounds that you hear are produced by nature. It feels to me like those are moments that can be truly luxurious and fulfilling. I created a musical instrument made of natural materials such as stones, twigs, and leaves, which dangles by a hemp rope. I felt this could resonate with Sony since the company has come so far with music. When the blowing wind shakes the instrument, and when people who wear it go walking and the stones and twigs jostle around, it creates a rhythm that showers the ears with pleasant sound tones.
In this case I embraced the natural functions and characteristics inherent in natural materials just as Inoue has embraced Alpaca knitting. Initially I drew sketches and diagrams of a sound-playing object in the motif of a musical note, but I tinkered with it a bit too much and it ended up feeling artificial and unauthentic. Ultimately, I went with a form that keeps things just the way they were when I found them.
In the same way that there are no symmetrical stones in the world of nature, it was actually better to be unbalanced. I felt that little by little, my mental processes and ideas as a product designer which had grown stiff over time were now becoming softer and more flexible through this activity, which is how I settled on the form of the final creation.
Just like Inoue, I found that the important thing is to have an approach where you consistently strive to express as much as possible about the beauty that your product has to offer; the beauty of the materials, their characteristics and functions, as well as your production technology and the way you deliver that product. This reminded me that we must remain faithful to the core principles and true nature of workmanship.
Designer, Design Center Europe
Sony Europe Ltd.
Designer & Co-founder
The Inoue Brothers
Layout by the Editing Department, AXIS
Text by Junya Hirokawa