⟨ Misc ⟩

A conversation with Anni Hayashi

Vitra

Words / Phaedrus Lam
Illustration / Furze Chan
Translation / Iris Heung

作為一個設計界的精神圖騰,Vitra這個瑞士傢俱品牌的故事,早被複述和傳頌過無數遍,多少人對品牌的發跡史琅琅上口,還可以爭相較勁那個設計更經典、更前衛。而即使是不諳設計、不識品牌者,大抵也看過像Eames Chair、Panton Chair這些品牌的經典設計;儘管那也可能是無授權的複製品,但Vitra的經典程度,就是連局外人看到也猶有幾分印象。

現居日本的Anni Hayashi生於芬蘭,大學時乘著交換學生的機會,從冷冽的芬蘭搬到溫帶的日本,自此打開了她在亞洲生活的開端。原為Artek亞洲區總監的她,三年前成為了Vitra亞洲和中東分部主管。在剛過去的五月,她為了參加芬蘭領事館的活動訪問香港,我們逮住這一次機會,與Anni Hayashis談論到Vitra的設計和經營哲學、近年度與Blue Bottle Coffee的跨品牌合作、2017年米蘭設計周的新品,此外也談到她的生活觀察,以及她個人與Vitra、傢俱設計的種種美好相遇。

The history of the iconic Swiss furniture brand Vitra is undoubtedly a well-known story that has been told countless times. It is also a recurrent discussion on what is the brand’s most classic design, or which one is considered as the most avant-garde. Eames Chair and Panton Chair are so distinguishable that even people unrelated to the field of design and brands can also recognise. Although many might have merely seen the unauthorised replica of these designs, Vitra is still a legendary brand that can transcend the boundary of the confined circle.

Anni Hayashi was born in Finland and is currently residing in Japan. Seizing her chance as an exchange student in university, Hayashi decided to migrate from the frosty Finland to the comparatively warmer Japan. It then marked the beginning of her life in Asia. Three years ago, after leaving her position as the Director of Asia at Artek, Hayashi became Head of Segment Home Asia & Middle East at Vitra. During her visit to Hong Kong for an event hosted by the General Consulate of Finland, we took the opportunity to talk to her about the philosophy behind Vitra’s design and management, the collaboration with Blue Bottle Coffee in recent years, the new designs for Milan Design Week 2017, her daily observation, as well as her beautiful encounter with Vitra and furniture design.

Vitra × Blue Bottle Coffee(JP) / Photo by Koji Honda©Vitra

你為什麼會居住日本?又是從哪時候開始居住日本?當中有什麼有趣經驗可以分享嗎?

我第一次到日本時是1999年,已經是十八年前了,當時我還是個主修日本經濟學的交換學生,而不是設計(笑)。當初到日本有很多不適應,因為與我原本住的地方太不一樣,像我就常常會在鐵路站走錯出口。當然那都是以前的事,非常久以前,還好終於不再迷路了。

你在芬蘭、日本的住所裡,最喜歡空間中哪些部分?當中有牽連到哪些深刻的回憶嗎?

想要誠實的答案嗎?我最喜歡的是家裡的沙發,日本和芬蘭如是!那你想聽一下我的室內裝潢嗎?我在傢俱設計這個行業十年了,我兩個家裡都分別有許多充滿回憶的傢俱,其中不少是跨品牌推出的商品。例子是我有一張椅子,那是我首次與日本品牌合作,去生產一張特製的Artek椅子(編按:Anni原是Artek亞洲區的總監,自三年前Vitra收購Artek後加入了前者。)我當時與日本品牌Beams合作,他們品牌剛踏入30周年,我們為它們特製了一張橘色的椅子。十年過去它仍然在我的公寓裡。

When and why did you start living in Japan? What is the most interesting experience that you could share with our readers?

I moved to Japan for the first time in 1999, it was exactly 18 years ago and originally it was only for my study. I was majoring in the economy of Japan, but not design. When I first went to Japan, it was completely different from what I used to. For example, when I wanted to get out of a train station, quite often I just took the wrong exit. Of course, it doesn’t happen anymore. It’s been a long time. Luckily, I don’t easily get lost now.

Which part of your home, either in Finland or in Japan, that you like the most? Any memorable stories that you want to share?

Do you want an honest reply? My sofas in both places. Would you like to hear about the interior? Because I’ve worked in the furniture field for more than 10 years now, I keep lots of items in both of my homes. They bring back memories; many items were created as some kinds of collaborations with the customers. For example, I have a stool, which was my first project with the Japanese for a special version of Artek product (Hayashi was the Area Manager of Asia at Artek before joining Vitra after it acquired Artek.). I was working with Beams for their 30th anniversary and made a stool for them in orange colour tone. After 10 years, I’m still using it in my home. And that’s just one example, a lot of items like that are so important in my home.

“I would rather be in lack of furniture for a little while than having something I need but I don’t love.”

你最早收藏的一件設計師作品是什麼?

在我還小的時候,我會從父母家裡借傢俱,也會從回收中心撿二手的使用,諸如此類的。到我真的自己花錢買傢俱,已經是我在業界工作的時候。我家裡有很多把十年以上的椅子,都是在我工作期間購買的。不過講到最早一個的話,那是柳宗理的蝴蝶椅。在我初進入Artek工作時,我就覺得蝴蝶椅非常好看。那真是一件迷人的傢俱。當我負擔得起的時候 —— 可不是我第一份領到的薪水 —— 我就買下來了。

你怎樣辨別一件傢俱是你「需要的」,抑或是你「喜歡的」?

這是個好問題,我希望可以給你一個不一樣的答案。誠然我很愛柳宗理那張蝴蝶椅,我是「需要它」抑或「喜歡它」呢?我是喜歡它。所以這樣說吧,我知道我自己是會去買自己喜愛的傢俱,所以我從不急於決定買傢俱,儘管我知道我之後需要些什麼傢俱,例如搬到新家後我有必要添置一張飯桌、幾把椅子。不過我從不急於決定,因為我想買我真正喜愛的。所以儘管我需要四張椅子,但有好一段時間我只帶三張。我寧願在一陣子內缺乏充足的傢俱,而不是擁有一些我需要的,卻明明不是我喜愛的傢俱。。

What was the first designer piece that you own?

When I was still little, I would take [furniture] pieces from my parents’ home, or I would buy things from a recycling centre or places like that. But the point when I truly started to buy my own design furniture only began after I started working in the field. I have quite a collection of such kind of stools over the past 10 years [in the field]. Actually, there was an item I really loved in the early days, and that was the Sori Yanagi’s Butterfly Stool. I found that so beautiful when I just started to work in Artek. It was a fascinating one. Once I could afford it, not [merely] from my first salary, I just bought it.

How do you categorise a furniture piece as a “need it” or “like it” item?

That is a good question. I wish I could give you a different answer. But I think, to be honest, When I fall in love with the pieces like the Butterfly Stool by Sori Yanagi, do I need it or I want it? I want it. So let’s put it this way, Since I know I will at the end run into pieces that I will fall in love with, therefore I never rush into decision when purchasing furniture. I know I will need something in the future. For example, when I move, I need a dining table and more chairs, but I never rush into decision, because I want to buy the one I truly fall in love with. Sometimes, I temporarily have only 3 chairs when I actually need 4. I would rather be in lack of furniture for a little while than having something I need but I don’t love.

Grand Sofà by Antonio Citterio, 2017

Vitra常常與不同品牌合作。想請問Vitra在挑選合作對象時,背後會有什麼基準嗎?

Vitra沒有一個明確的準則,我們不會用準則這個字。不過你說的對,我們經常與不同品牌合作,由時裝公司到咖啡店都有。我覺得「基準」這個字可能不精確,但我們會端看與對方的想法、文化上有沒有共享的價值觀。更多時候我們只是與對方透過對話,找出我們之間的合作方向。

Vitra與Blue Bottle Coffee於2015年的跨品牌合作,在當時候是個熱議的話題。在未來的日子,Vitra還有機會與Blue Bottle Coffee合作嗎?

原因其實分很多層面。那時候Blue Bottle Coffee在日本是一個新晉品牌,而恰好他們進駐日本當時,Vitra也正忙於轉換在日本消費市場上的經營方向,此為合作的原因之一。另外在2015年,我們在米蘭設計周的展示區,交給了Jo Nagasaka這位日本建築師去設計,同時他也是日本Blue Bottle Coffee的設計師,他就是連結起我們和Blue Bottle Coffee之間的人。我們為什麼與Blue Bottle Coffee合作,有很大部分原因是時間,而也像你說的,兩個品牌的想法上有很多重合的地方。

Vitra frequently collaborates with different companies. What are the criteria for selecting companies to collaborate with?

We definitely don’t have a list of criteria. We don’t call it like that. What’s true is that we do collaborate a lot. The collaboration ranges from fashion to coffee shops. ‘Criteria’ is perhaps not the right word. But there is always something we share in common, like thoughts or culture that share similar grounds. We often begin with having a simple conversation with the person to find out something that clicks, and then turns it into a collaboration.

The collaboration between Vitra and Blue Bottle Coffee in 2015 was a huge topic that everyone talked about. Will there be any chance to collaborate with Blue Bottle Coffee again in the future?

Actually, there was a multitude of reasons: Blue Bottle Coffee was new in Japan, while Vitra was at the same time activating the consumer market in Japan. Our similar market approach thus easily linked us together. In 2015, our Vitra’s stand in Milan Design Week was designed by a Japanese architect called Jo Nagasaka. He is also the architect behind Blue Bottle Coffee. Therefore he’s actually the link that brought us together. The reason for us to work with Blue Bottle Coffee has a lot to do with right timing; like you said, we share many similar thoughts.

Softshell Side Chair by Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec, 2017

在剛過去的2017米蘭設計週裡,有哪些Vitra的新品是你最喜歡的?可以跟我們多講一點嗎?

我們有Antonio Citterio的Grand Sofa,非常的棒,是一張優質的沙發。我們又有一張晚餐坐椅,由Bouroullec兄弟設計的一張非常舒服的晚餐坐椅,叫作Softshell Side Chair。其實很難說那一個最喜歡,不過如果只談個人層面的話,想要那個設計出現在我家裡的話,那就是Softshell Side Chair,它非常的舒適和漂亮。

可以挑選一件Vitra的商品去形容你的個人嗎?

這問題好難。我不確定能不能好好解釋,不過我腦海首先出現的是Eames House Bird。當你擁有Eames House Bird在你的房間時,它會轉換了房間的風景,不過它卻不是空間的焦點。Eames House Bird是一個裝飾品,如果你為一個空間照相,它的在場與否可以造成很大差別,不過它始終不是焦點,你的房間仍需要有其他的東西令它產生作用。我就是喜歡Eames House Bird的這種特質。

Could you select some of your favourite Vitra’s pieces from the “Fuorisalone 2017”? Can you elaborate a little?

We have the Grand Sofa by Antonio Citterio, which is gorgeous. It’s a sofa of premium quality. We have a new dining chair, a very comfortable dining chair by the Bouroullec brothers that is called Softshell Side Chair. It is really hard to say which is my favourite, but if we are talking on a personal level, like what I can imagine having at my home would be the Softshell Side Chair. It’s so comfortable and beautiful.

Could you choose a piece from Vitra that can represent yourself?

This is a very hard one. I don’t know if I can explain this well, but what first comes to my mind is the Eames House Bird. It simply changes the vibe of a room without becoming the focus of it. Eames House Bird is a mere decoration. But taking a photo of the interior with or without it makes a huge difference, without being the focus; you need other things in the room to make it work. I like the Eames House Bird for that kind of intrinsic quality.