Nacasa & Partners

Column > Column Vol.02


Thirteen articles are presented here, filled with the pure essence of Mr. Morita, on topics such as his latest big news, the work he is doing overseas and his day-to-day life
(October, 2005)

Interviewer: Nobuko Ohara

Planning Manager/General Manager, Shanghai of Nacasa & Partners Inc.

Nacasa & Partners have been photographing Mr. Morita’s designs over the last decade. At the company’s regular end-of-year party, every year, Mr. Morita presents a show which is spectacular enough for the cheering of the 400 or so guests to shake the office. We are looking forward to his performance this year, too!

01. Currently working on 87 projects

First of all, an announcement. I have been chosen to do the work on Hotel "W" (in Hong Kong)!

Thank you so much. This fulfills my heart's desire. I am really thrilled.

So I am currently participating in 87 projects. This is just incredible. My schedule is completely filled to the end of 2008!

These 87 projects include the second MEGU restaurant in New York, the environmental design of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd floors and the 1st basement floor of Tokyo Building (in Marunouchi, Tokyo), and a serviced apartment (in Roppongi, Tokyo). I am designing the lounges of the top two floors of a tenant building which is due to be completed at the end of this year (in Roppongi) and I am making the most gorgeous statue of a little boy peeing for the lounges. Please look forward to that. In Osaka I am designing a bar which is completely covered with the skins of 500 crocodiles. Mr. Kimura of COMPLEX ? the company I always use to create furniture ? was so astonished he said, "Wow! You've got more crocodiles in here than the Banana Crocodile Zoo!" In recent years, for an increasing number of projects, in addition to designing the interiors, I have also designed the architecture. I am going to produce numerous designs in Japan by the end of the year.

I am designing two Dojunkai shops in Harajuku. For one of these, I am making the most gorgeous merry-go-round in the world, so please look forward to seeing it. I have devised some ingenious devices for the display. Please go and take a look when the shops open ? you will have fun.

After reading this far, you can probably guess why I am called "Gorgeous Morita" or "Chandelier Morita", but actually very many of my designs do not have the red or the chandeliers that the media have jumped on as a kind of trademark and are not designs that anybody would stop and say "Ah, it's a Morita". Because, you see, my work is always haute couture.

On that point, a job that has made me think so much is a traditional Kyoto teahouse [completion scheduled for April 2006]. There is a bar on the first floor, a Japanese-style banquet room on the second floor, a restaurant on the third floor, and a studio on the fourth floor. This is the first teahouse to be constructed, rather than simply renewed or remodeled, since the war. And of course, also for me, this was my first experience to design such a building. The work was extremely difficult. I had to cherish traditions passed down through the generations, but absolutely above all else, it really is a very special world, isn't it? An ephemeral world. I had to create a design that was somewhat ephemeral and not overbearing. The teahouse mistress said to me, "Do away with any special notions. Don't be overwhelmed by the feeling of "Kyoto". Do what you feel like." But still, I had to maintain the stern grace for the teahouse. The teahouse must have high status, but not too high. I put most effort into the entrance and reception area. I devised lighting to highlight the voluptuous beauty of the geishas and created a mood that generates the presentiment of dramatic development. I designed the teahouse imagining myself as a young gentleman from a rich family who regularly visits the teahouse. I produced the design based on the sense of myself as a man, thinking of the kind of play between men and geisha that I would like to do. It was extremely difficult, but I managed it. I produced a design for the teahouse.

I am rarely assigned to produce Japanese-style designs. All such assignments are taken by Ichiro Sato or Yukio Hashimoto.

Yasumichi Morita


02. Work overseas

I do a lot of overseas projects. About three years ago, the number of my clients overseas exceeded the number in Japan. The overseas projects I am involved in are diverse, including houses, showrooms, offices, restaurants and hotels.

I receive orders from VIPs, one after the other. These VIPs of the world are rich beyond belief. I am sometimes surprised to see some of my clients featured in Forbes, but the other day, during a presentation of one of my designs, I asked my client who her father is. She replied, "Ah, the president".

There is no difference in the work that I do for projects in Japan and overseas, but I am not usually so rushed with overseas assignments.

For instance, in the case of Hotel "W", where I will design the public spaces, the restaurants and guest rooms, the zoning and the layout will be decided first, and I was told not to do any designing for a year. The client told me that I should look around the world and produce a plan when I will feel perfectly ready in a year's time. They give me a whole year to spend on the project. I am so grateful.

I cannot guess what kind of overseas work I will receive, or from who. Sometimes I suddenly receive a letter saying, "Don't you want to work with me?". I have to ask, "Who are you?". It is certain that clients in Japan and overseas are looking for a "surprise".

I made a day trip to Miami the other day. I spent three hours to inspect the site, squeezed in half an hour for a champagne lunch, and then I was on my way home. When I arrived at my office and was taking a well-earned break, a member of the staff told me that I had to go to Hong Kong next and handed me an air ticket. Oh, my goodness! [gesturing typical of a middle-aged woman; laughter] I have already collected 400,000 miles on my air-miles card. What on earth is 400,000 miles? It's difficult to grasp. I asked at an airport counter, how many trips around the earth I could make with the 400,000 miles. The answer was, "A lot."

03. Designs other than interior design

I now do two different types of designing. One is interior designing? my original job. The other type is designing accessories such as jewelry and watches.

For the Dojunkai project in Omotesando, I am not only designing the jewelry shop for unisex products: I am also designing the jewelry.

I am currently involved in another interesting project. I am designing luxury watches of a famous Japanese brand. They will suit middle-aged men who are slightly or, maybe very, naughty. Only a few of these watches will be offered for sale throughout the world. At first, I expressed my ideals straightforwardly in the designs of these watches, then the designs became terrific. But eventually, I cut out more than two-thirds of the design, and now I am making progress. I cannot tell you about the design itself yet, but it is cool. The watches will be on sale next year, so please look forward to them.

Today, I will not do fashion designing for clothes, but I am enthusiastic about designing accessories such as bags and jewelry.

04. "Uncle" Takeshi Nakasa, who I like so much

I have known Mr. Nakasa (Takeshi Nakasa, president of Nacasa & Partners) for more than ten years. I was about 25 years old, so since then. The first time we talked was when he wanted to photograph my design "Illusion" in Ashiya for a feature article of works of architectural photographers in Commercial Photo magazine. Some time later, he invited me to an interesting bar, called Chant, where I came across Mr. Okada (president of Chant). Since then, every time Mr. Nakasa sees any of my various designs, he says "You are crazy, you are" with his face beaming."

The business relationship that I have with Mr. Nakasa is one where he photographs my designs. I can meet up with him at any time anywhere regardless of how I feel, because he has been watching me since I was 25. This is not a compliment ? he has enormous capacity to accept people. In the same way as I am, Mr. Nakasa has no spiritual connection with the world of sports, rather he is more of a martial arts person. Recently, we have both been so busy that we have not had much chance to meet up.

What shall I do at this year's Nacasa & Partners' end-of-year party? A trio of fools born in 1967 (Mr. Morita, Mr. Yutaka Noda, president of Plan Do See Inc. and Mr. Kenichi Inamoto, president of zetton inc.) will stage a funny show. Last year, we danced with "Matsuken samba". It took us an hour just to put our make-up on! It's already August, so I have to think about something. Oh, dear, I have to think about new year cards, too.

05. My favorite place

My favorite place? Paris! For men, it has to be Paris!

There's fashion, history, refinement, food and champagne. But what I like most about Pairs is the cafe "L'Avenue". Located diagonally across from the main office of Christian Dior, and the utmost in elegance, it makes me feel so good. It is filled with ladies just like Catherine Deneuve and in winter it looks like a fashion show of fur coats! At this cafe, which seems to have young, female models working part time as waitresses, just having champagne poured for me is such a great pleasure. Because I do some work for Robuchon, I visit Paris four or five times a year.

06. The most exciting work ever

Jobs that have excited me so far... of course, there must be so many, but the work for Robuchon was so thrilling.

My first assignment was "Le Cafe de Joel Robuchon" in Takashimaya Department Store in Nihombashi. Then I designed "Chateau Restaurant Joel Robuchon" in Ebisu. I have presented my designs to various clients. Robuchon's sense of design is truly sophisticated and impressed me so much.

My first presentation for Robuchon was in Hong Kong. Robuchon has a restaurant in Hong Kong. I received a call from there asking me to come because he was there. I went to Hong Kong taking everything that I needed for my presentation with me. When I arrived at the restaurant, I was told, "Many people have already presented their designs. Mr. Robuchon sometimes walks out after two minutes, and other times after ten minutes, he has clear judgment, so please do not feel offended", in a very calm manner. "Eh, I may fail too!", I thought and lost confidence for a moment.

In the first 30 minutes, I did not talk about design at all, I just told Robuchon what I thought about his restaurants and cafes. Then I started talking about design, beginning with the crystals of Swarovski. Robuchon keenly listened to my presentation with his piercing eyes and finally said just one word, "OK!". That was the most exciting moment.

Robuchon told me that he had a request and then the details of the request. He told me he could spare just one hour the next day and asked me if I could prepare the presentation by then. Of course, I said, "Yes!." Immediately I started to work so hard. I had not taken any tracing paper with me, so I used some of the restaurants' kitchen paper. Drawing on kitchen paper is difficult because it is waxed. I gave Robuchon another presentation the following day. Once again he listened keenly with his piercing eyes and then said, "Perfect! That would have taken a Frenchman a month ? you did it in one day." I felt a sudden adrenalin rush. That was truly the most exciting moment.

Chateau Restaurant Joel Robuchon

07. The biggest excitement at the moment

That's the Hotel "W" (Hong Kong) job, because it is the hotel of my heart's desire. I am going to produce designs for restaurants, guest rooms and all of the public spaces. This work makes me so excited. Every day is exciting.

08. Champagne in his right hand, a cigarette in the other

I love champagne, I really do. I drink champagne almost every day. Champagne during the day, in the evening, at night. In this way the day breaks and I say, "Well, morning already! Time for a morning champagne, then!" Champagne takes years and years of care to produce, but the beautiful taste lasts only a moment and then it is gone. It is so transient. Ephemeral things are beautiful. The silhouette of a women drinking champagne is so elegant.

By the way we were awarded with the medal of Chevalier. Just last month! The group consists of myself, Yutaka Noda (president of Plan Do See) and Kenichi Inamoto (president of zetton). Yes, the trio of fools born in 1967. We were invited to a gala dinner. The person sitting next to me was a member of the Moet family, and sitting next to him, a brother of the mayor of Paris; Shinya Tazaki was also there and although celebrities were all around us, we were only cherebs! But it is true that we sell more Moet et Chandon than anybody in Japan. Noda is selling the most Moet in Japan. I'm not kidding. I spread champagne around Japan and of course I consume a great volume myself. I saw a table of champagne consumption by country and found out that my personal consumption exceeds the consumption of an entire country in 14th place!

Recently, there has been an increase in the number of people casually drinking champagne as a daily habit. I am pleased to hear about this. I drink champagne with peach in it. This is my favorite way of drinking champagne. The next best way is with strawberries, I think.

I love cigarettes, too. I smoke about five packs every day.

09. Yasumichi Morita's imagination

First of all, beautiful things. Beautiful things are the root of my imagination. The very basis of my thinking is that I want things which do not exist, and so I create them.

Take the case of a beautiful flower in a vase. The flower is beautiful as it is, but I imagine that it would look more attractive if there were sexy lingerie hanging behind it or if there were white roses in front of it. I image various scenes for beautiful things. If I imagine having a date with Helena Christensen (a super model) today, I can think of so many different scenes, such as meeting her at that bar before going to a restaurant, or parking my car in front of the restaurant. I imagine a different woman each time, but there is always a woman in my imagination.

In all of my working hours in a day, I spend about three hours designing. Three hours are my limit because I think so much that I sometimes wonder if sea urchins are coming out of my ears! When I design, I do not stay in my office, I go to a coffee shop or brasserie with the hustle and bustle of daily life. I like to be in places filled with various scenes of life: people moving about constantly and naturally in the field of my vision; people talking about their love affairs in seats near me; a shop assistant being told off by her manager. My imagination for designs flows out in these places at such times.

Although I am from the Kansai region, I am not a quick-tempered type. I am such a dreamy sort of person. People call me "a natural". I am working for 87 projects, which makes me wonder what's going on, but I do not want to be in a rush. In fact I work at my own pace. I never forget to make time for drinking somewhere every day.

10. It's a nice day to do the washing

Every day I drink champagne and smoke five packs of cigarettes. My way of keeping healthy is to sleep. Seven or eight hours of sleep. If I don't get enough sleep, my mind shuts down. On a recent trip to New York, my client booked a business class seat for me, but I went to sleep even before the plane took off and I slept through the whole twelve-hour flight. I was the only person sleeping with the seat upright!

like cleaning and washing. I really do. I like smoking, but I don't want my room to become smelly, so I cannot spend a day without spraying odor remover. When I return home, I smell of soap, which is really nice. I had a meeting in this afternoon. I went back home to do some washing before coming here. It's a nice day to do the washing. Bath towels will be nice and dry with the smell of the sun. Japanese washing powder is the best, but I like a pink softener called Downy. It smells nice and removes creases.

I also like detergents and cleaning equipment very much. I think I am obsessive. I clean things all the time, so because things never get dirty, I cannot see the different effect of new detergents, although I would like to!

11. Myself in five years and in ten years

There is one person I would like to work with. That person is John Galliano

[John Galliano, lead designer of Christian Dior, is acclaimed for his high-couture techniques and magnificent, fin-de-si?cle work that he creates through his understanding of fashion history and exotic refinement and by converting them into avant-garde styles. After working for Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH), Galliano accepted a position succeeding Givenchy as a lead designer. In 1997 he became a lead designer at Dior. He has significantly increased the sales of the off-the-peg clothes division.]

There are arguments for and against Galliano's designs, as there are with mine. But no other designer creates such exciting work while at the same time cherishing the history of the brand. I believe Galliano is a man who knows the true meaning of couture.

I think that Galliano and I are on the same wavelength. Although I cannot guess what will be created through our collaboration, I definitely want to work with him!

I believe that my wish will come true, and so it will be true some day.

I wanted to produce a design for a bar when I was in my twenties and become independent in my thirties. Both of these wishes came true. I had a complex when I started my job because I had not attended a design school. I did not aim to win a prize, but I thought that if I did not do so then I would never be able to carve out my niche in the design world. This wish to win a prize also came true, although people said it was merely coincidental. Then I wished to become the world's top designer in my thirties? and this also became true.[Daidaiya HK (Hong Kong) Interior Design magazine's hospitality design award for the best dining bar.] I won the assignment of the hotel of my heart's desire (Hotel "W" in Hong Kong).

I decided to talk about my dreams to people. Then I work hard to materialize the dreams because I do not want people to think of me as being Peter in the story of Peter and the Wolf. To be honest, I have had many painful experiences, but without those experiences, I would not have become able to think and dream up ideas like I can now. At every critical point in my life, I have always had good companies who helped me. Thanks to their help, I can enjoy a happy life now. That's my honest opinion.

12. Expectations, strain, and adrenalin

I feel that people (including people in design) are expecting even greater things from me. Naturally I feel strain and pressure, but it is my personality to enjoy such strain. I feel very excited when I am in a pinch. I would say, "Let's get three times more points!"

People used to be pleased just to see a bunt or a hit. But nowadays people are not satisfied unless they see a home run. Only a bases-loaded homer that gives the losing team a win can thrill them. Eventually, people will not get excited unless they see an unexpected ending such as what Shinjo did? hitting a bases-loaded homer that handed victory to his team in a losing game, but Shinjo himself was put out. This is the situation we are in now. People are not looking for an amazing design or a design with impact, they want to be surprised.

We live our lives only once. I experienced the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake. I believe that I can do anything.

13. Do you have a table for two?

Now, I'd like to talk about our office [called Glamorous, located in Ashiya] which we moved into last year. Our previous office was so small that staff had to fight to hold on to their chairs, just like the children's game of musical chairs, so we began looking for a new office. I heard from an acquaintance about an office with a ground floor of 20-tsubo (66 square meters) and a 40-tsubo (132 square meters) basement floor, so a total of 60-tsubo (198 square meters) with the atrium. He said I could design the office as I wished. So I did.

It turned into something like a chandelier palace. I wanted an open space, doing away with small rooms. The atrium passes through both floors. We have a big marble table in the middle of the floor, which we use to make models and other things on. We have many big stands with chandeliers and a red carpet. If petals of roses were to be scattered on the carpet, it would look exactly like a scene in the movie "Coming to America"! A dog belonging to one of the staff sits at my desk most of the time. From the street, the office looks like a restaurant or a bar because the office equipment is all hidden away behind curtains and I am often drinking champagne in the evening. We often have "customers" asking, "Do you have a table for two?". Please look at the photos of the office, which were taken by Nacasa & Partners.

Glamorous Office, (Ashiya)

Composition and text: Eiko Yamagishi (freelance editor)