French-born designer Gwenael Nicolas is an interiors and product designer who has lived and worked in Japan for over 20 years. After earning his BA in Interior Design from the École Superieure d’Art Graphique (ESAG) in Paris in 1988 and an MA in Industrial Design at London’s Royal College of Art, Nicolas moved to Japan as a freelance designer in 1991. He later returned to ESAG to acquire an MA in Interior Design.
In his youth, Nicolas’ brother, a movie producer who works with esteemed director George Lucas, brought him to watch Star Wars. It was a revelation for the budding designer, who realised then that he wanted to be involved in design. With producer Reiko Miyamoto, he established Curiosity agency in 1998 and has since collaborated with household brands like Issey Miyake, Fendi, Louis Vuitton, Uniqlo and Nintendo.
Known for minimal, airy spaces with a particular focus on light and movement through spaces, Nicolas is the mastermind behind the Uniqlo megastore in Shinjuku, Tokyo, and Berluti and Fendi boutiques, full of his signature geometric lines. His first ever fashion collaboration was with the Japanese designer Issey Miyake, for whom he has designed stores and perfume bottles.
“Women’s fashion is important for its complexity and organic nature, always stimulating. They’re crossing each other all the time so that’s interesting,” he once said.
His work has earned him multiple accolades. In 2007, he was twice honoured by the Japanese Society of Commercial Space Designers and thrice honoured by the Display Design Awards in 2005 and 2006. In 2009, he was awarded the Ku/Kan prize, Japan’s most prestigious prize for interior design.