Japanese designer Fumi Masuda, who is responsible for the Pile Chair (an Inhabitat favorite) is the director of the EcoDesign Institute, a professor at the Design Department at Tokyo Zokei University, President of Open House Inc., a member of the Japan Design Consultant Association and founder of the O2 Global Network in Japan. So you can imagine how glad we were when he made some time to talk to us about green design. We recently had the chance to speak to Fumi about his history with design and he offered some interesting perspectives on the sustainable design market. Read on for his thoughts.

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For those that are not familiar with the work of this designer, Fumi Masuda’s company, Open House, develops electric gadgets, tools, home appliances and, pretty much anything else you want him to.

Priscilla: What is your concept of sustainable design?

Fumi: Sustainable design is not design to sustain our society – because our society is not sustainable anymore. So we have to re-think and start again, to build something new. We should come back to learn from nature. The concept of waste is something that mankind has created. There is no waste in nature. Everything just goes in circles, everything is recycled, including us. So, it is our responsibility to reuse products again and again until they can not be used like a product anymore, but as a material. This is recycling. I am quite optimistic in this way. In Japan there are good efforts from big companies: Ricoh is recirculating the actual copy machines they made years ago and have re-appropriated and repaired them; Fuji is producing recycled film. That is what we have to do. It is not necessary to excavate natural resources anymore, there is enough material available to us already.

Priscilla: You told me that young people in Tokyo are fascinated with Lohas (Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability). What do you think about that?

Fumi: In Japan now we have this trend, the Lohas trend (it’s a marketplace for goods and services focused on health, the environment, social justice, personal development and sustainable living). It came from American marketing and dramatically changed Japanese lifestyle. But I believe that is just a trend, only a style, not a real concern. It is like some fashion designers in the eighties in Japan. They called themselves ecological designers because they were using earth tones in their clothes. That doesn’t make any sense, but it happens. It makes things more complicated, fools people. People who don’t know much about it might make a mistake. We should not do that. We have to live more carefully and not try to make money by telling people that you are doing ecological things when you are not. This is really not ecological.

Priscilla: Do you believe that some companies need to alter their brands toward more sustainable design in order for sustainability to really take root in our society?

Fumi: Brand is a reflection of the market. So we can’t say to change the brand. You actually have to change the market first, and then brands follow. It is the economy; it is a matter of money. So the market itself has to change. You can not say to a brand: your value is not good, change it. They have the right to continue in this system, in capitalism. I am not a politician, designers are not politicians. I am not fighting to convince people to change their way of living. Something will happen very soon. They will notice that they have to change on their own.

+ OpenHouse