Born in Tokyo in 1934, Shiro Kuramata attended Tokyo Polytechnic high school, where he studied woodcraft, graduating in 1953. He then went on to study interior design at Tokyo’s Kuwazawa Institute for Design, finishing in 1956. In 1957, Kuramata began working for a small Tokyo department store called San-Ai, designing showcases as well as window and floor displays. Next, he worked briefly as a freelance designer for the larger retail company, Matsuy, before founding his own design studio in 1965.
Kuramata’s designs are characterized by a passion for experimentation—such as using industrial materials in interior and furniture designs—and marrying the Japanese concept of unity of the arts with modern Western culture. He designed over 300 bars and restaurants, as well as some of the most iconic pieces of the 20th century, including his breakout design, the S-shaped Drawer in an Irregular Form (1977); the Miss Blanche chair (1988), featuring red paper rosebuds in acrylic resin; and the Glass Chair (1976). Cappellini, Fijiko, Ishimaru, Vitra, and other renowned firms have produced his designs. During the ’80s, he designed several pieces as a member of Ettore Sottsass’s Memphis Group, as well as a trio of design boutiques for Issey Miyake. In 1988, Kuramata moved to Paris and set up a studio there. His work is included in the permanent collections of, among others, the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Museum of Modern Art in Toyama.