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Alumnus Profile: Fabien Grégoire, Director of Kenwood Design Corporation, Tokyo

Alumnus Profile: Fabien Grégoire, Director of Kenwood Design Corporation, Tokyo

Soon after graduating from our institution in 2001 (product design), Fabien Grégoire was hired by Kenwood Design Corporation in Tokyo. In 4 years, his innovative potential, his creativity and his boldness opened him the doors of executive management. Story of a dreamlike career start...

 

 

A comprehensive and stimulating curriculum

In 1996, Fabien Grégoire enrolled in L’École de design Nantes-Atlantique to study product design. "The many changes this school went through to reach the height of success are my best memories. They offer an accurate definition of what design is about: handling the unknown, facing up challenges, being creative and professional," Fabien Grégoire relates. Fabien graduated in 2001 and furthered his final degree project – a new concept of lawn mower that redefines the garden as an extension of the home – together with an industrial. He went as far as developing a prototype, but unfortunately the partner went bankrupt and the project was terminated, which prompts Fabien to venture in free-lancing. Eventually, after a decisive and mind-broadening internship at Continuum in Milan, he opted for in-house design.

 

Subwoofer - designed in 2002 by Fabien Grégoire for Kenwood Design Corporation.

Kenwood Design, Tokyo: Immersion in Japanese Business Culture

In 2002, Fabien Grégoire sent an unsolicited application to Kenwood Design Corporation in Tokyo and his initiative bore fruit. He was hired as an in-house designer at the head office of world-leading car entertainment manufacturer, 2nd only to Motorola in radio communications, and still works there.

On his very first workday he was quite taken aback as he saw his new Director – fluent in both French and English – take his leave. Back then Fabien Grégoire was not exactly what you’d call knowledgeable in Japanese language and culture. He feared the same cruel fate was awaiting him. But things soon changed in a good way for him. He quickly grasped "what Japan has that fascinates foreigners": daily discoveries and omnipresent contrasts. "A living nightmare for some, a dream come true for others." After thinking up projects to be commercialized in the United States and Europe, (show-off items, tuning, auto radios, etc.) he set to designing products for the domestic market.

 

MP3 Mediakeg, finalist at Good Design Awards 2004.

Fabien Grégoire’s input as a non-native was a strong asset. In late 2004, the design of his MP3 MediaKeg HD20GA7 – finalist at Good Design Awards – became the reference product for KENWOOD’s whole Multimedia Mobile range. The very same year Fabien Grégoire was appointed Manager and founded the Advanced Studio, a highly solicited design department devoted to prospective studies and market research. He worked in collaboration with Toto, Apple, Immersion Corporation, etc., and converted the staff to English, which proved to be very effective. Another relevant decision of his was the opening of 2 subsidiary studios in Paris and Los Angeles; a meaningful turn in the company’s design strategy.

 

 

SQUEEZOPHONE360, Design by Claudio Colucci.

A 30-Year Old Deputy Director

In late 2006, Fabien Grégoire was appointed Deputy Director of KENWOOD DESIGN CORPORATION by M. Haruo Kawahara – CEO of KENWOOD. "A job tenure of only 4 years, barely aged 30... I was quite astonished. This decision showed me that design was one of the executive management’s top priorities and that the company saw me as trustworthy. I also sensed that I would be in the limelight for a while, and that the toughest times were ahead of me."

 

Upward mobility: F. Grégoire reaches the top of the ladder

In early 2008, Kenwood took over JVC and the merger gave life to JVC KENWOOD Holdings. In the beginning of 2009, Fabien Grégoire won the highest recognition. After striving to have the whole staff acknowledge that design was at least as significant as engineering in the company’s production process, he became Director of KENWOOD DESIGN CORPORATION. His tenure does not seem to be nearing its end. KENWOOD DESIGN, which boasts about 50 employees who specialize in product design (45%), graphic user interface, computer graphics (45%) and brand design (10 %), is a dynamic in-house design studio where all of KENWOOD’s worldwide onboard-electronics, hi-fi and radio-communication systems ranges are thought up.