We talked to Mikiya Kobayashi of Mikiya Kobayashi Inc about the design studio and here is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Mikiya Kobayashi: Luckily, my family, my staff, and I are all fine and healthy. Of course, we realize it is a hard time, but rather than feeling negative, we are trying to focus on the positive aspects of this delicate time. We can’t do too much about the situation, but we have to be patient, stay strong, and learn what we can.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Mikiya Kobayashi Inc.
Mikiya Kobayashi: After graduating from Musashino Art University, Tokyo, in 2004, I soon joined FIELD FOUR DESIGN OFFICE, one of the biggest interior design firms in Japan. In 2006 I founded my studio in Tokyo and began designing for wood products companies. In 2011, I opened my store/showroom, TAIYOU no SHITA, displaying and selling my own designs together with a curated selection of furniture and products. In 2016 I launched TAIYOU&C., a furniture brand for contract and home use, where I invited international designers to collaborate on the collection. In 2018 I opened my second studio in Valencia to better connect with the increasing number of European clients. I established the lifestyle brand IMPLEMENTS (which replaced TAIYOU no SHITA) with the desire to deliver products that enrich people’s lives.
How does Mikiya Kobayashi Inc innovate?
Mikiya Kobayashi: Speaking of my work at the studio, when we design something, we always keep in mind our daily lives. We sometimes tend to get used to uncomfortable actions: I like to explore those actions and design objects that can increase, even by little, those moments, making the users realize how pleasant it can be to interact with a good product.
Regarding my brand IMPLEMENTS, we want to deliver a total lifestyle experience, being able not only to sell our products but also offer a custom service with the order made kitchens, interior design and going until all details, like plants suggestions or smaller objects.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Mikiya Kobayashi: Like anywhere else in the world, the Japanese economy has also been strongly affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Many of our clients had to put on standby new projects to face the current situation. Luckily we still had several projects going on. Still, having a bit more time to invest in something else, we took advantage to put more effort into digital contents, like creating a YouTube channel and create a new online store (which will soon be up and running), but also renovating our studio and opening a brand new IMPLEMENTS store, including also a little café inside to deliver to customers an even better experience.
We decided to take this chance to invest our energy to be even more ready than before for better times.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Mikiya Kobayashi: Of course, we had to reconsider our way of working, but we did what we could to keep ourselves busy. The only very difficult choice we had to take was to postpone the opening of our showroom in Kyoto, which was meant to be during spring of last year, but in fact, we started having customers by appointment only since last autumn.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Mikiya Kobayashi: Especially during last year, I have started to invest as much time as possible in doing sports, like running, football (soccer), bouldering, and so on. I have soon noticed how moving my body also improved my efficiency at work and my mood. I also believe it is important to spend some leisure time with my staff, and this is why sometimes we go all together to try new restaurants, cafes or shops, which helps to improve the quality of time at work and is important for inspiration and research.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Mikiya Kobayashi: I don’t see other designers as competitors, but more as colleagues. Regarding our brand, we are still small compared to the main players in the furniture industry, but being compact gives us the possibility to deliver a tailored service both to private and contract clients. I believe our strong point is also to be the design studio behind most of the products we sell, as we see the whole process and we are able to learn and improve from our customers’ feedback.
Your final thoughts?
Mikiya Kobayashi: I think design has an impact on both social and individual aspects of life. In this specific time where the coronavirus has spread around the world, people’s lives have changed, and so their needs. I think as a designer is important to be sensitive to the constant change of our needs through the evolving lifestyle and be able to adapt and fulfill them through new ideas.
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