Interview with Arihiro Miyake

During Milan design week I met designer Arihiro Miyake in the showroom of Moooi. Arihiro presented his new lamp Coppelia, which he designed specially for the Dutch brand. We talked about work, life and design.
 You’re here because you’re presenting your lamp so how did this happen with you and why you found this project interesting?

Arihiro Miyake: My interest was really creating a lamp with LED, which doesn’t look like regular lamps looked before. In our days in most countries they develop lamps and a classic bulb lamp is forbidden and is disappearing because of the energy consumption and energy saving.

Then as a designer, or a company when you make new lamps, there are many lamps which still only replace classic bulbs with LED, but we can go one step further finding new typologies. It is free.

Before we didn’t design the light source. But today we can design the source itself. Like this one. It’s made only for this lamp. Inside the lamp is the LED and then another layer, we call it light guide, so that lamp starts to distribute light equally. Otherwise if you put LED in only one point then one spot will be brighter than the others.


Ksenia: Why Moooi? You have your own design bureau, why you’re working with Moooi and what is so special about it?

Arihiro Miyake: Moooi is very strong in last 15 years. I’m running design studio on my own, but I do not usually (some people do) produce products by myself. I sell designs and they produce products and pay royalties. We cannot do it like this at a single designer scale?  In order to produce something really new you need anyway help and the money. Engineering team of Moooi is fantastic.

Actually it is the second product I worked on with Moooi. First was a small table.

It was 6 years ago, when I was exhibiting at Salone Satellite, where young designers are exhibiting, where they found me. They came to my booth and asked: do you want to work with us?

They are always looking for young talent. Every year they add some new people. I think it is because of Marcel Wanders, he is not only a great designer himself, but he is also an entrepreneur.


Ksenia: What are your all-time favorite design objects, or furniture?

Arihiro Miyake: I don’t really think about design, and i am not necessarily a fan of design. May be fan of myself, my own design.

But if i bring some names for you, i say Achille Castiglioni and Richard Sapper, famous Italian masters (though Supper is originally from Germany). These two people I don’t have any personal connection to.

And also Maarten van Severen – the Belgian designer, who worked for Vitra, where he made a very essential minimalistic collection of chairs. He died very young, but it was 16 years ago when I was a student, and he once came to our school teaching.

He was a very free person, exploring all personal freedom, which you can think of. But somehow when he was working, he was so pruned. I was thinking wow!

In a way it is a very serious job, we have to put together something seriously safe and impressive for the people. We are not joking at work. But designer’s life is free. Because we don’t have a boss, and indeed, we can be very spontaneous and driven by various motives and inspired by completely different unexpected things.

Ksenia: Do you have a design obsession? I am obsessed with chair design, my close friend is collecting fonts.

Arihiro Miyake: It’s difficult to say but i like something, that is very thin or very light. If I have a chance to design a new chair, I would make something very technical and light. I like lightness. Or futuristic, just look at my shoes! Future is a keyword.

Ksenia: I’m based in Amsterdam. I was born and raised in St Petersburg. I know you have your bureau in Helsinki, why Helsinki? Some say, there is a lot in common in traditional Japanese art and Nordic or Scandinavian design. Is this true for you? How do you feel the connection?

Arihiro Miyake: Today I live half of my time in Milan, half in Helsinki. I also work here. But anyway, Helsinki. I went there after the university in Japan to continue the master study in Helsinki. One thing, of course, I was inspired by Scandinavian design, Finnish design. I was exploring a lot of opportunities, including doing masters degree in Milan or London, but stayed in Helsinki, because of people, and city, and culture, and the country itself. And, of course, the university, where I stayed and worked for some time after my masters, and collected all kinds of possible scholarships, and grants.

And indeed the connection between Scandinavian and Japanese design is very strong. Because Japanese culture is based on wood, not stone. In the middle of Europe it is stone, buildings are made of it, whereas we don’t have stone in Japan, neither there is no stone in Scandinavia. Scandinavian culture is also based on wood. Houses are made of wood, even though wood doesn’t last forever.

Photo 14.04.16, 18 03 40 (1)

Ksenia: And simple lines?

Arihiro Miyake: Yes, I think they come from different reasons. Finnish people say, I am so cold, so I cannot draw free lines. It’s always straight lines. But in Japan, idea of redacting things, you first think of something, then take off unnecessary things. And then it becomes a clear simple thing. When you see the result, it becomes similar. And we feel comfortable with each other, I think.

Ksenia: As a closing question – you must have visited Amsterdam?

Arihiro Miyake: Yes, once.

Ksenia: What is your goto place in town and what are the must-see buildings in town?

Arihiro Miyake: Actually I was there only once. I went to visit Moooi in Breda. I came in the morning by plane from Helsinki to Amsterdam, then I took the train and traveled to Breda. Then I had a 2-hour meeting, and then I took the train back to Amsterdam airport. I had like 20 minutes between trains. And I only saw the Central Station. It is a pity!

I’d like to come back some day.

Japanese national TV-channel is making a very strange program about a cat and a camera just following the cat in some town in different countries. There was one episode in Amsterdam. Camera was following the cat. They don’t speak much in the show, just showing the cat and the town. And then I saw people living on, I think it used to be a storage boat on a canal. Some people are renovating this boat as a house. They are living there. And I thought that’s kind of really nice. May be it’s difficult to live there if you have a family, but when you’re young it’s kind of artistic. You see in front of you this canal, and then you’re having the morning coffee.

Ksenia: In Amsterdam we have a house-boat museum, you should visit it.  And a very nice big Moooi showroom.

Arihiro Miyake: Yes, I would definitely come back! Helsinki is kind of… I like people there, but not many things happening there, it’s a little town. And we always meet the same people. I am Japanese, in Japan in town it’s always lots of people, a lot is happening. Sometimes I miss this part. You are not necessarily look for anything but it comes along. In Helsinki you really have to find out yourself, especially in winter time. Nobody is outside.


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