Sebastian Conran on Design & Japan
Sebastian Conran on Design & Japan


As human beings we perceive the world through our senses – life is a sensual activity. Designing the objects
that we come across in our everyday is about much more than just joining the dots between usefulness,
usability, functionality, appearance, finish, fabrication, materials, cost, brand, etcetera. It is also about providing
a personality for objects and an experience for the user that will be pleasurable and satisfying. It is about
imbuing our work with a sort of inanimate soul which expresses the thought that has gone into both
designing and making the objects. This is a notion which I’ve found Japanese makers to inherently
understand. exceptional craftsmanship.

“This level of attention and thought is what makes working with Japanese companies so rewarding”

When I first started working in Japan in 1986, one of the myriad of delightful things that struck me about
the country and its unique culture was the amount of meticulous thought that goes into almost everything.
With food, this begins with the careful selection of ingredients, then the ingenuity and skill in preparation &
cooking, and finally the thoughtful & aesthetic presentation on unique, carefully made, beautiful dishes.

This obsessiveness about one of the simplest things in life – human sustenance – typifies the attitude of Gifu
makers and craftsmen to the products that they make. This is seen in the careful selection of materials, the
meticulous planning & execution in fabrication, all the way through to the final presentation and packaging of
the products. I think that this level of attention and thought is what makes working with Japanese
companies so rewarding for me.

Gifu Prefecture and Craftsmanship

The first thing that strikes one about Gifu is its geography & geology. Gifu is mountainous and 80% forested
with a great variety of tree species, from hardwoods to conifers; this is especially noticeable in early
November when the leaves change from green to red, orange, gold and yellow, giving the landscape an
amazing visual texture.

A lot of the craftsmanship in Gifu has evolved out of this natural environment. The mountains contain metal
ores and provide the clean abundant water necessary for metal working, paper-making and pottery. The runoff from the rivers also creates huge clay basins in the many beautiful valleys.

All of the makers in the Gifu collection have a long history of producing beautiful, top quality products. It
was our task as designers to conceive of, and collaboratively develop a range of products with International
appeal that share a common, Gifu inspired aesthetic; we call it the Sebastien Conran Gifu Collection. Each
item in the collection was designed to be sympathetic to the region and also to the makers, demonstrating
their exceptional skills and celebrating the wonderful local materials that they use.

Working with 18 different manufacturers in another language, from our studios on the other side of the the
world, presented a significant challenge to our team. The amazing commitment and hard work on the part
of the Gifu prefecture has not only made this project possible, but also incredibly enriching for us; we are
incredibly grateful.