Interview & Report

Norito Takahashi

Norito Takahashi

Interior designer Jamo Associates Managing Director

After studying interior design, Takahashi started his career as a founding member "EXIT metal work supply", an iron works and design office, where he devoted himself to product and interior design. In 2000, he founded Jamo Associates together with Chinatsu Kambayashi, a freelance stylist at the time. At Jamo, Takahashi directs the office's work on interior, environmental and product design.

[ EXIT metal work supply ]
[ Jamo Associates ]

Norito Takahashi from Jamo Associates created an awe-inspiring space that broke down all conventional ideas of boutique shops with his 2004 work with LOVELESS (2004-2008). He has dominated the scene with his space design work of numerous well-known shops including OPENING CEREMONY and THE CONTEMPORARY FIX, and now has shown the world his audacious creations with his good friend Yuichi Yoshii at VERSUS TOKYO in Florence, Italy. We take a close look at the inner workings of Jamo Associates, who have been trusted immensely by various brands and companies for over a decade.

Please tell us how you came to work with space design.

I was involved in starting up EXIT metal work supply, a company that made metal items like hangers, hooks, and steel furniture mainly for the fashion industry and was with them for about 4 years. At that time, we accepted individual orders for furniture and we were young, so we were adding all sorts of things saying “that would be better like this” (smiles), but people, unexpectedly, ended up liking our work. Eventually, maybe they thought we were easy to use, but our area of design began to grow and were getting requests to do entire shops before we knew it.

How did Jamo Associates start?

After I left EXIT metal work supply to become an independent designer, I hit it off with my old friend who was working with interior styling for magazines, advertisements and catalogs,Chinatsu Kambayashi, and started Jamo Associates in 2000 thinking it would be interesting to see what it would be like for two people from different professions (i.e. designer and stylist) to come together to share our sensitivities, information and projects.

Much of your work is in fashion space design, but were you interested in fashion to begin with?

Yes. When moved to Tokyo in 1993, the Urahara(the nickname of back part of Harajuku) culture was really vibrant, and I used to go there often myself too.

Is there anything that you place importance on when designing space for fashion?

I value the customers and the shop staff that will actually be in the space everyday. For example, when starting a new shop, there are many people involved from different sections of the brand to the construction workers, and it’s very important to maintain the harmony of all those people and heighten their enthusiasm. A shop is essentially a mechanism to sell clothes, so that business has to work out first, but I try to design space that the shop staff would be excited to be in. I think this excitement is like how you feel when you can’t help smiling when you wear new clothes. I believe that if I can create that kind of space, ultimately, customers will also want to come to the shop!

It’s also necessary to express the worldview and sense of time & age of each brand then?

That’s right. What I always try to take care of is to observe closely. I try to input all the information I can at the beginning about, of course, the brand and the company, but also about the economy, and then think about what to deliver. Times are changing and we have fewer jobs now compared to a little while ago where the client leaves it completely up to us to create space. Recently, what’s seemingly becoming important is how well we can edit with the given conditions and that’s where observations become a key point. So every day I work to improve at least my observation skills.

What do you do to improve your observation skills?

Whenever I go on business trips in Japan or overseas, I try to look closely at what’s out there. If you look at each and every door closely, you can see many stories and can tell the nature of the people who live there and their lifestyles from the ornamentation and style. I’ve always liked walking around in cities. In designing space, what you put out there in that environment is important, but also it’s interesting to think about how that space interacts with society.

Was there a particular job that was a turning point for you?

I would have to say working with Mr. Yoshii on LOVELESS. Originally, Chinatsu and Mr. Yoshii had a common acquaintance, and we met for the first time through this person where we discussed LOVELESS. It was completely different from the type of jobs we were doing at that time, and even the way he placed orders was different. Now, most people have a clear image of the space they want down to the details, and we’re often handed specific visuals, but with Mr. Yoshii, his order was to create “the atmosphere of musician XX.” We even had an appointment to actually go to see this musician perform. The approach of developing a concept from music was something new to me at that time; I had a lot of fun and many other things surprised me.

Photo:Kozo Takayama

You were also recently in charge of the venue structure for VERSUS TOKYO at Pitti Immagine Uomo held in Florence under the direction of Mr. Yoshii, right?

In autumn last year, I was involved in the opening of the Hong Kong store of THE CONTEMPORARY FIX in 2011, which turned out to be the basic idea. The theme of the Hong Kong shop was “sports”, so from there, we came up with the keyword “tennis and ideas like how it would be great if the clothes were put up on fences. We also laid artificial grass on the ground in the Hong Kong shop like we did there, but we also suggested using wood flooring as well. But with Mr. Yoshii’s idea of wanting to have something “stronger”, we used artificial grass that reminds you of a tennis court. Also, since the name of the event at Pitti was VERSUS TOKYO, which also resonates with sports, we thought it would be interesting to re-edit the idea we used in Hong Kong.

THE COMPTEMPORARY FIX Hong Kong Store opened on September 28, 2011
Photo:Kozo Takayama

An amazing effect was created at Pitti with the contrast between high-intensity lights and artificial grass.

Mr. Yoshii prefers pop and electric elements, so we used intense white lights. Normally, you would think lighting like a gymnasium would be appropriate, but it isn’t just a gym, and to reflect the worldview of Mr. Yoshii, we decided to use contrasting elements to stand off from one another.

Photo : Daisuke Kawachi

It seems that you will be working more overseas in the future, but is there anything you try to be aware of as a Japanese creator?

The world is going to become even flatter, and homogeneity in concepts of time and style will spread more and more, so when that happens, what will remain is detail and craft. Japanese culture and technology is unique and may not be copied by people overseas(like we are not able to copy those in overseas), so I think it would be interesting not only to bring completed packages but to also show the process of crafting and detailing, which is also something I want to be conscious of.

What recent projects have you had and what do you want to do in the future?

Recently, we were involved in the renewal of BEAMS Ginza, opening of anima a sports apparel brand shop, and OPENING CEREMONY SHINJUKU from New York which we also worked on the Shibuya shop as well. OPENING CEREMONY SHINJUKU is a two-site shop on the deferent floors. On the first floor of Lumine Shinjuku right outside of the station’s ticket gate, they sell lifestyle products(not clothes!).
With starting points like creating furniture for the interior shop CIBONE in 2006 as well as Kambayashi creating interior products since 2008, we want to contemplate about transmitting our own original concepts as well.

Photo:Kozo Takayama

bottle candle produced by Chinatsu Kambayashi
Photo:Gorta Yuuki

Photo:Jamo Associates

Photo:Jamo Associates

INTERVIEW by Yuki Harada

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