『People, Design, Space』#1: Makoto Otani

Otani joined GARDE in 2016, and after working as a PM and local architect, he has been working as a designer since 2021, participating in many projects for apparel, large-scale commercial facilities, and hospitality. In addition to his skills and sense of style, he is also a possesses a deep sense of humanity. We took an in-depth look at the young designer from a variety of perspectives.

■How did you become interested in design and architecture?

The large commercial facilities and mass merchandisers along the national highway, such as toy stores and fishing tackle shops, were at the origin of my consumer behavior and my first perception of commercial space.

I had an interest in design, objects, and shapes from an early age, but my interest in space was secondary to my experiences there. The origins of my own creation began in my childhood, when I spent all my time collecting insects, looking at actual objects and illustrated books, copying them, and making models.From there, my interest shifted to airplanes, tanks, and plastic models, and I developed an interest in industrial objects that led to my current occupation. Ever since then, I have been interested in guitars and furniture design.

I also spent a period in Beijing in the 1990s and often went to department stores with my family and siblings. We would spend half a day in the facilities, from the game center to pottery classes, to dining. We were also a cultured family, so we had all kinds of subcultural materials scattered around the house.

From a very young age, I was exposed to the films of seen Verhoeven, Cronenberg, David Lynch. For manga, I was introduced to Osamu Tezuka, Shigeru Mizuki, Yoshiharu Tsuge, Shotaro Ishinomori and so on. In the midst of all this, my piano teacher gave me the best Beatles album. I fell in love with the subculture of the 60’s and beyond.

I became obsessed with Dylan and Kerouac, and as a result became a bit of an “edgelord”…





●His passion for building plastic models as a child eventually led to an interest in product design…




●He was accepted to Musashino Art University.

■What influences your design and what you are actively incorporating into it?

I think that the way items are combined with each other is an ability that is common to the way materials are combined in space.

For clothing, I am quite conscious of dressing in a way that is “appropriate for the occasion, very normal and ordinary”. Personally, I think it has something in common with my attitude towards spatial design. I feel that there is a slight difference in the sense of distance between clothing and interior/architectural design, as they both focus on the human body.

The process of sewing clothes, starting from the selection of materials, and building from the pattern (flat) to the human body (three-dimensional), is very interesting from an architectural point of view. The way you finish it will affect the completion of the project. More than the technical interest, what I am conscious of is the semantic rationality, whether the combination of items is in line with a certain context or not. Starting from who, where, and how the item was made, to why I chose it now, I am conscious of making sure that each combination makes sense. I want to apply this attitude to each aspect of food, clothing, and shelter whenever possible.

■Who are some creators you admire?

I’m glued to the frightening yet fascinating scenes and characters of David Lynch. 

David Lynch’s work may be considered difficult and lofty, but if you take a closer look at his works, you will find that each motif is mundane and trite in a good way. I think he is an interesting person who has succeeded commercially while making films that are personal and self-indulgent.

■To Mr. Otani, who states “I have no preconceived notions about materials, good or bad.” We propose the final question: What are some of your future challenges?

I feel that experienced people are limited in the space they associate with materials. For example, the unit price of a material is set based on various factors such as scarcity, time and effort of production, transportation, etc. However, I believe that it never determines whether the material is good or bad (luxurious or cheap).

This may also be true for other elements that make up a space, such as spacing, where it makes sense to say, “If it’s bigger, it’s no good” or “If it’s smaller, it’s no good.” However, there are many of these virtues that have no basis in fact. I would like to question this while keeping them as a foundation. There must be much that is strangely missing or curiously in excess that we find attractive. I will continue to learn and utilize as much as possible.

■Makoto Otani

Designer, Large-Scale Design Section, Design Business Division

After joining the company in 2016, Makoto Otani worked in the PM Section of the Brand Business Division, where he managed the interior design work for imported brands opening stores in Japan. In 2019, he joined the Design Section of the Brand Business Division, where he worked as a local architect for imported brands ranging from apparel to cosmetics. In 2021, he joined the International Design Division, where he works as a designer on a variety of projects in Japan and abroad, focusing on apparel stores, large-scale commercial facilities, and hospitality design.


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