In this exclusive interview, we delve into the world of design with Yosuke Aizawa, the visionary fashion designer and Creative Director of White Mountaineering. Known for his collaborations with iconic brands and his role as a design consultant, Aizawa's career is a testament to his unique design philosophy. From his mountain hut in Nagano, where he seamlessly merges Japanese and Danish design principles, to his admiration for PK products, Aizawa shares his insights on design as a medium for self-expression and the art of living with pieces that age beautifully, embodying the essence of his design philosophy.
Who is Yosuke Aizawa, tell us a bit about yourself. I am a fashion designer at White Mountaineering. I collaborate with various brands, including Moncler, Addidas, and LARDINI. My most recent work was designing for COLMAR. As a design consultant, I also design uniforms for a Japanese logistics company, a hotel, and an automobile company. As a creative director of the Japanese Professional football league club "Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo," I am in charge of total direction for the team. I am also an affiliate professor at Tama Art University and Tohoku University of Art Design. It's difficult to put my occupation into one category. To explain my job in simple terms, it's about making a better environment by design. Tell us about your house, where it’s located, who designed it, and how long you’ve lived there. This mountain hut, which I use as an atelier, is located in Nagano. The area is called Karuizawa, a two-hour drive from Tokyo. It's widely recognized as one of Japan's most popular summer retreats. I've been familiar with this area since I was a kid. I used to go to the ice-skating ring to play hockey at the foot of beautiful Mount Asama, situated at 1200m altitude. The place is great during hot summers to escape the humidity and high temperatures in cities and is perfect for skiing and snowboarding in the wintertime. During the COVID-19 pandemic and due to movement restrictions, I decided to build this mountain hut – something I've been thinking about for a long time. The house was 40 years old when I found it. I asked Mr. Sasaki, a founder of SMALL CLONE who designed the White Mountaineering Flagship Store, to come over and share renovation ideas. The house was almost entirely renovated except for the building frame and the large chunk of logs.
Who inspired you or helped you to decorate the house? I am often inspired by books and histories when I design. I prefer Postmodernism ideas; however, I don't want to over-decorate my living and creative spaces. Space design is an expression of yourself like a mirror. It's important to give uniqueness to materials and surfaces. For example, in traditional Japanese homes, walls were painted with an uneven coat as the beauty of imperfection. I'm not seeking perfection, but I give great importance to the appearance of ageing beautifully. Small stains and scratches by use are valuable to me. I purchase products for use, not as keepsakes. I have a PK chair with vegetable-tanned leather in my house in Tokyo. It has ice cream stains from my son, but it makes such a unique piece, and it's a kind of proof my kids grew up here. Danish design merges seamlessly into the space – what are your thoughts on the Japanese and Danish design philosophies coming together? I've heard that Japanese design, housing, and architecture profoundly influenced Scandinavian designers. I recently visited Poul Kjærholm's home and found out why. Japan has a culture of taking shoes off inside and sitting on the floor or tatami mats. That means Japanese people live very close to the floor. Kjærholm's low-seat chairs, like PK22 and PK80, have Japanese essence, which is readily acceptable to the Japanese lifestyle. I felt a Japan-style beauty at Kjærholm's home. It's the same at my atelier. The floor is very close to my living. I sometimes sleep on the floor. This is why Danish, especially Kjærholm furniture, fits into my Japanese home.
Can you remember your first encounter with Fritz Hansen? I studied at Tama Art University, where I am currently an affiliate professor. My major was Textile Design, and I have been fascinated by Scandinavian design, culture, interior, and textiles ever since. My first encounter with Fritz Hansen was via the Series 7 chair at the university. Arne Jacobsen and Poul Kjærholm were in the textbook, so the chair was not just something to sit on. It was also educational material for me. What was the first piece of Fritz Hansen design you owned? The vintage AX chair was the first Fritz Hansen chair I owned when I built a house in Tokyo 15 years ago. I have three properties, one in Tokyo and two ateliers in Tokyo and Karuizawa. Each house has a different inspiration for the furniture selection. For the house in Tokyo, where I live with my wife and three kids, I prefer the furniture that changes colour over time - a beautiful patina. I also have an idea of handing down the furniture to the next generation. So, I prefer to choose something that can age with style. I use the Tokyo Atelier as a workplace. I furnished it with PK series in black leather to allow me to concentrate on the samples' patterns and colours that I work with. I come to the atelier in Karuizawa when I want to go deep into my thoughts. Hence, the choice of the soft tones for the interior. What’s your favourite piece and why? I like all PK products. I imagine Kjærholm's philosophy during my design process. Combining different materials into a textile design as he did. His design continues to influence my design life. Kjærholm's design principle of maximizing the constructive potential and simplifying to the utmost of its possibilities is the truth of design.