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Culture | January 11th


In January 2020, Le Bon Marché Rive Gauche has invited japanese designer Oki Sato to showcase his tremendous talent within its walls, through the stylish and poetic "ame nochi hana" (rain flowers) exhibition. Founder of the nendo design studio, Oki Sato develops creations that are joyful and refined, instilling serenity in the hectic world we live in. Born in Canada, he is inspired by his dual culture and creates works that straddle Japan and the West. With simplicity, joy, humour and originality, Oki Sato moulds reality in the style of modelling clay ("nendo" in Japanese) and invites us to embrace our inner child.
In this interview, Oki Sato talks about his work as a designer, revealing what inspires him, and providing insights into his "ame nochi hana" installation at Le Bon Marché Rive Gauche.

What was your reaction when The Bon Marché Rive Gauche asked you to do their annual exhibition after the artists Ai Weiwei, Chiharu Schiota, Leandro Erlich, Joana Vasconcelos ?

Being invited by the Bon Marché ive Gauche after those great artists was kind of chocking for myself, because the past few years it was always an artist and I’m a designer. I think the big difference between is that an artist can come up with so many ideas, from within himself but a designer has nothing in here, is totally empty and I need to be inspired by things, I need to find problem to solve I need things that really inspired myself to start with, so to be honest the most horrible project would be a client comes alone and tells me you can do what you want. That would be a nightmare for myself and to be honest this project is something like that. Le Bon Marché Rive Gauche give me so much freedom and in the beginning, I was in total loss.
©Kento Mori

What does the Bon Marché Rive Gauche evoke in you?

The Bon Marché Rive Gauche itself is really inspiring like the atrium, windows, the shops inside I don’t know walking through the Bon Marché Rive Gauche it gives me so many different ideas and for this exhibition it was the Bon Marché Rive Gauche itself, it was the story of white sales, “le mois du blanc” I thought it was a beautiful story about people buying white things for everyday life, sheets, sets and towels, white beds, to refreshing theirs minds and feeling emotions I thought it was a beautiful story that became sort of story point for this project.

« The starting point was about refreshing your mind and emotion. » Oki Sato

What is the process of your creation how does a project begin and then become real?

For me every single project follows the same process whether it’s a large scale, architecture project, or if it’s a small packaging of chew gum. I start from a small story and then I sketch it, a “stupid manga sketch”. After the sketch, I move on into physical mockups, it’s about models, testing with materials, it’s important that we make our thing ourselves, it’s not about working on rendering, then computer graphics, we really need to touch and feel these materials.

Was this the first time that you’ve realized an installation in such a large commercial place?

Actually, it was the first time that I realized an installation in a large scale commercial place, the biggest difference would be that people who visits museums are more active, aggressive in a way, they feel that they want to go to the museum, they come to museum, they buy tickets then they come to the galleries, so they are really focused on what they are seeing in a situation like a department store, like the Bon Marché Rive Gauche, the visitors are not as aggressive in a way. You need to find something special to attract them in a way and I feel it’s not about shooting or screaming it’s about respiring because I feel that when there is so many things happening, because there is lot of things happening in the space, and when you try to scream or shout, people are not listening to you. When people are trying to shout when people are trying to scream I try to respire and people will listen to me.

How did you get the idea of raindrops being that are transformed into flowers for your installation on the ground floor ? What triggered the idea?

The starting point was about refreshing your mind and emotion and I thought that the droplets represent rain, sadness and fear, it represents the negative side, the flowers represent life, happiness and joy, the positive side of life in a way and I want to show both, the good and the bad and in the end they become all good things. I think I am inspired by mister Issey Miyake, he told me fifteen years ago : “in art you can deliver all this different emotions like sadness, hanger or fear, if you are a designer you must deliver happiness and joy in the end.” It was exactly what I wanted to do here.

How would you define “design” in a few words?

How would I define design in a few words? I would say that design is fun and functional at the same time. Because the word “fun” is inside the word “functional”.

Are you a dreamer ?

Yes, I’m a dreamer, definitely, sometimes I feel that my real life is after I go in my bed and I dream, then when I wake up, I made my dreams and it’s the beginning of my dreams.

Is there a message you would like to address to the visitors?

I really don’t like to tell how they should enjoy my work, it’s up to them. It’s the freedom, this is the most important thing. When the artist is talking too much, I think he narrows their minds in a way, I think my piece should do all the talking and I should remind silent.

« Uncovered skies », 2e étage
©Shuntaro - nendo