Alice Blackwood speaks to Maruni Creative Director Naoto Fukasawa and designer Jasper Morrison at the Milan Furniture Fair.
Naoto Fukasawa is the Creative Director of Japanese furniture company, Maruni. He collaborates with Jasper Morrison on select pieces in the Maruni collection. Alice Blackwood speaks with Naoto and Jasper at the Maruni stand in Hall 6, about new directions, and bringing back the classics.
AB: Maruni has been around for over 80 years. They have long been known for producing very European classic style furniture, but in the last 5 years or so Maruni has moved into a more modern and contemporary direction. Can you tell us about the change in creative direction Maruni undertook when you joined as art director?
NF: They are one of the best furniture companies in Japan, renowned for producing traditional European style furniture. Now they have to change, because the customer [aesthetic] has shifted to a more contemporary, modern style.
AB: How was this undertaken without compromising the craftsmanship for which they are so famous?
NF: Industrial craft is kind of a keyword. Maruni furniture is about machine technology not just craft handwork… using a new technology with a traditional knowledge from experience. That was quite a successful strategy to making a new style of furniture company.
I’m a big fan of good design. I’m not trying to design completely new… I like to have more of an objective take – to find something interesting… Whether that is a design classic, archetype, iconic – I don’t want to ignore it, I really want to use the things people already like.
AB: Working with Jasper Morrison, you have produced a lounge and very comfy-looking armchairs (‘Club’ by Morrison) which hark back to a more classic era in Maruni’s furniture. In fact the lounge is a revision on one of Maruni’s original, best-selling classic pieces.
NF: I’ve refined the size and the material [of the lounge]. The original design was more decorative, more textile with texture, [and] really old fashioned. People still like it. I want to make a bridge between the modern life and traditional mind.
I think that our lifestyle or fundamental system of life is nearly completed – nice kitchens, airconditioners, electric systems – now people are trying to get something particular. I am trying to find a soul and iconic typology.
AB: Jasper, tell me about the Club chair which complements the couch.
JM: Naoto started a few years ago to retune their old pieces. Their design thinking is that we tend to think only about modern, and not old things. In reality about 75% of people prefer something older.
Why do we persist in convincing people that they want modern stuff? For the public, why not try to find a new language of design. Not this modern approach but something inspired by the antiques.
The side table (in timber with Corian tabletop) in between the Club chairs is also new. It’s so comfortable when you sit in this chair and the table at the same height. Design sometimes overlooks some important aspects of being comfortable… and not being so snazzy.
The Maruni collection of furniture is available in Australia through SeehoSu and in Singapore through atomi.
Special thanks to SeehoSu for hosting DQ in Milan, as well as facilitating this interview with Naoto Fukasawa and Jasper Morrison.