Kashiwa Sato’s uniquely Japanese design sensibility

Creative director and long-time Uniqlo collaborator Kashiwa Sato is one of Japan’s most revered creative minds. Here, he discusses the evolution of his nose-to-tail approach to design, which spans everything from communications to interiors

It’s not surprising that Japan is often hailed as the home of good design. Simple yet sophisticated and functional yet aesthetically pleasing, the country’s unique design aesthetic is present everywhere from its public spaces to food packaging, while Japanese brands such as Muji have become equally well-loved around the world.

One of the individuals behind some of Japan’s best known exports over the last few decades is Kashiwa Sato, a designer known for his work with the likes of Honda, fashion designer Issey Miyake and, his longest-standing client and high street favourite, Uniqlo. Alongside heading up his own design studio, Samurai, for the last 20 years, the designer has also lent his hand to teaching as a visiting professor at Tokyo’s Tama Art University, and even acted as a cultural envoy for the Japanese government.

One of Uniqlo’s stores in Tokyo

Growing up in 1960s Tokyo, Sato’s first exposure to the creative industries was via his father, who worked as an architect. “The first floor of my parents’ house, designed by my father, was a large space without walls or partitions inside, loosely divided by furniture and light fixtures, and I loved the atmosphere it created. From my childhood I loved to draw, and whenever I found a piece of paper, whether it was my father’s drawings for his work or a newspaper, I would draw on it,” he says.