interview with interior designer masamichi katayama of wonderwall

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Wonderwall is an interior design firm founded in 2000 by masamichi katayama. while the studio is based in tokyo, katayama and his team have completed a range of projects around the world, including work in europe, china, and australia. wonderwall was recently responsible for clothing company diesel’s latest retail interior in new york, the first iteration of a new brand concept that will now be implemented globally. on the occasion of the store’s opening, designboom spoke with katayama, who explained how the project developed and expanded on his personal design philosophies. 

masamichi katayama of wonderwall realizes new retail interior concept for dieseldiesel’s latest flagship store in new york
see more of the project on designboom here

designboom: how did the collaboration between you and diesel come about?

masamichi katayama: first of all, nicola formichetti (diesel’s creative director) came to our office and asked me to join the new project, which is establishing diesel’s new retail concept for the next generation. then I flew with my team to their headquarters in breganze, and we started discussing their vision about the future of diesel with mr. renzo rosso (founder of diesel) and his team.

wonderwall masamichi katayama diesel store madison avenue new york designboomconcrete flooring contrasts wooden ceilings

DB: can you please start by explaining the concept behind the project?

MK: it was such a wonderful experience to work on this project with the diesel team, especially with renzo rosso and nicola formichetti. in order to start this project, the first between wonderwall and diesel, it was so fruitful to learn the company’s brand history, attitude — and most importantly — the passion when mr. rosso started diesel. I was so intrigued to know the story on how the company gained popularity.

mr. rosso’s personal vision of brand stores was quite personal and intimate, and I was drawn by the idea of creating it more like a salon than a retail outlet. after listening to all the stories, we decided to design this store based on the keyword ‘apartment’, while incorporating the very latest diesel clothing — its strength and gorgeousness. I wanted to see how it will turn out. ordinary life and extraordinary life is merged. I wanted people to feel intimate and comfortable, while adding a strong identity.

wonderwall masamichi katayama diesel store madison avenue new york designboomthe store has been imagined as a series of apartment-style spaces

DB: how do you want customers to interact with the store, and what overall experience do you want them to take away?

MK: diesel has many different faces, it is a lifestyle brand with a very gorgeous kind of charisma. this store includes these faces, and I intended to express them differently. I’d like customers to enjoy the true diesel atmosphere, and experience an uplifting and special feeling offered here.

wonderwall masamichi katayama diesel store madison avenue new york designboomthe design includes steel fixtures paired with persian rugs

DB: how did you develop different ways of presenting the various garments? 

MK: I firstly chose ‘apartment’ as the concept word. the reason is that when renzo first opened diesel, he spent his time in the shop just like a salon, so he wanted a third kind of place, which spontaneously became the brand’s identity. so I connected the comfortable place to one’s apartment, and then combined various scenes happening in apartment with various clothing categories to derive a context.

wonderwall-jasper-morrison-designboom01juyosho visitors center at the homangu kamado shrine by wonderwall + jasper morrison
see more of the project on designboom here

DB: what particular aspects of your background and upbringing have shaped your design principles and philosophies?

MK: I was born in a family who run a furniture store, and my home was just above. so I walked up to my home through the store every day. I witnessed what was happening in the store between staff and customers. if the business is going well, the mood is good in the family. so I love stores with customers, that is a symbol of happiness. then as I grew up, and as a teenager I was very into pop culture and sub-culture.

when I started studying interior design, I was not so sure if I should go down that road. but suddenly, I realized that what I like — such as music, pop-culture, sub-culture, fashion — is related to interior design. so I chose to be an interior designer. interior design is what I do, but personally, it is more than a job. I love thinking about interior design, it is my life. I truly enjoy what I do, and I believe that joy will communicate naturally through my design.

wonderwall / masamichi katayama: intersect by LEXUS‘intersect’ in collaboration with LEXUS in tokyo
see more of the project on designboom here

DB: overall, what would you say is your biggest strength and how have you developed that skill over time?

MK: my strength is being objective. through controlling objectivity and subjectivity in my mind, I keep a certain distance with the projects I work on. I do not spoil my design, I will keep pushing my design to the edge and try to find the best and only answer specific to the project. I am not an artist, I am a interior designer, so I am not creating an artwork. design should the form of communication, a letter from brand to customers. what I can do is to think hard for the projects, brands, customers, and all the people related to the project including myself. there is no need for effort. I just enjoy the project as much as I can.

100% chocolate café in tokyo
see more of the project on designboom here

DB: outside of interior design, what are you currently interested in and how is it feeding into your designs? 

MK: I am interested in many things, like culture, sub-culture, politics, environmental problems, my personal matters, … things to see, hear, feel, almost everything. I spend everyday absorbing and disgorging these, maybe this is the way of my life. I guess my interests are feeding into my designs, but unconsciously.

DB: which designers working today do you most admire?

MK: peter zumthor.

ozone bar in hong kong
see more of the project on designboom here

DB: what is the best advice you have received, and what advice would you give to young architects and designers?

MK: ‘you cannot create good designs without seeing good ones.’ I don’t remember who said this to me but I would like to say the same to young designers.

DB: what is your personal motto?

MK: I am not sure if I can say this a motto, but I always tell myself: ‘work hard to make everything enjoyable’. it is up to you if you make your life enjoyable or not.