People | The Big Questions

Garde president strives to provide a world-class standard of interior design

Redesigning and refining the perception of luxury

by Dana Macalanda

Staff Writer

Name: Guido Tarchi
Title: Vice president and Director, Garde (since August 2017)
URL: www.garde-intl.com
DOB: Aug. 26, 1968
Hometown: Florence, Italy
Years in Japan: 23


For the past 23 years Guido Tarchi has weaved among Tokyo’s crowds, surrounded by the city’s architectural jumble where the everyday harmonizes with the extravagant.

Garde’s newest vice president and director is a seasoned professional in the world of business and luxury. A former director at both Kering Tokyo Investment and Permasteelisa Japan, Tarchi joined Garde last August with the intent to cement its ongoing relations in Asia and expand its clientele in Europe and the U.S.

Domestically, Garde’s projects include Adidas Japan’s headquarters, which won the 2015 Asia Pacific Property Award for interior design, and the Fendi flagship store in the newly opened Ginza Six, as well as several other stores in the shopping complex.

However, despite spearheading a company devoted to providing a global standard of luxury, Tarchi’s personal definition of the term is atypically poetic.

Straightforward and affably wry, Tarchi has a knack for rapid-firing multiple, varied thoughts in a single breath.

To Tarchi, luxury is tied to the emotions that color a person’s life. He exhales in a rush before barreling smoothly into an unexpected explanation. “It depends on where you start because if you take the richest person in Japan or the richest person in the world and ask what is luxury for them, it would be certainly different from my concept of luxury.”

He believes that it’s an extremely wide concept overall and acknowledges the familiar desire to seek material gain, but also brushes it aside for a more engaging answer to what he considers the ultimate luxury.

“Normally, our lives are basically tied to schedules, to commitments,” he said. “Having time is a luxury. You cannot buy time.”

A day at the beach surrounded by friends and family with absolutely no plans is Tarchi’s dream day off. It’s simple, much like how he tries to approach life.

Originally from Fiesole — a district in Florence, Italy — Tarchi was deeply interested in photography during his 20s and was presented with a choice; accept a scholarship to the prestigious Aperture Foundation in New York City or head to Tokyo for a homestay and work for a contact who ran a photo agency representing Italian fashion publishers.

Tarchi came to Japan, but his outlook began shifting. He arrived knowing only “arigato” (thank you) and “sayonara” and enrolled as a full-time student at a language school for over a year before applying to Sophia University.

He describes his first few years abroad like living in a dream. The Shibuya scramble crossing was an astonishing sight, noting that despite its magnificence, his opinion was and is no different from 99.9 percent of other foreigners who see it for the first time.

Iconic sights aside, he jokes that a dream can also be a nightmare; navigating conversations and the city in the pre-internet age was especially tough because carting around a physical dictionary wasn’t enough if you didn’t already know the kanji.

“You need to read Japanese, you need to write Japanese and you need to understand Japanese because otherwise, you are lost here,” Tarchi said. “There are people that live 20, 30 years in Japan pretending they do not have to learn Japanese, but I’m not that kind of person. I was not, I am not and I am very happy that I did what I did.”

It took around five years to wake up from the dream. University and getting a job at Permasteelisa were big transition points, but Tarchi also remembers an English-Japanese magazine at the language school called the Hiragana Times.

Read it the first time and other foreigners’ questions about Japan and their problems seem fresh; read it again six months later and the same issues return without fail. Tarchi was amused by the state of the magazine at the time, reasoning that although it wasn’t the publication to learn it from, if you could answer every single question and complaint, you probably fully understood both Japanese as a language and Japanese society.

Societal understanding (or, in his words, “pretending to understand Japan”) came from a book Tarchi recommends to anyone living in Japan, especially newly arrived business professionals unfamiliar with the culture.

Former University of Tokyo neuropsychiatry professor Takeo Doi’s “The Anatomy of Dependence” (“Amae no Kozo”) was published in the ’70s and focuses on explaining Japan’s emphasis on the group over the individual.

For all his years in Japan, Tarchi still feels like a temporary resident. However, that doesn’t deter him from one of his long-term goals.

“If we say ‘I want to be rich, I want to have a car, or I want to have a house’ it’s boring. I mean, everybody wants to have that,” said Tarchi. He adds that he’s probably not at that point philosophically, but it’s something he strives for.

After a certain age, if you’ve hit milestones like financial security and your kids are on the path to finding the right job and life partner, satisfaction should come in the form of the nonmaterial, he elaborated. It’s one of the reasons he joined Garde, a Japanese company and why he hopes to volunteer as a guest lecturer in the future.

“Try to give back to Japan what Japan gave you, or if you cannot give back to Japan, give it to somebody else,” he said. “For sure you got something from Japan, so don’t keep it just for yourself.”


Steady progress for seasoned Japan veteran

Guido Tarchi joined Garde in August 2017 as the vice president and director. Previously, Tarchi worked as director and deputy general manager at Kering Tokyo Investment, focusing on real estate investment for the world’s second-largest luxury fashion group from 2016 to 2017. For the bulk of his career, Tarchi was with Permasteelisa Japan from 2000 to 2015. Over those 15 years, Tarchi rose with the company that began as an Italian startup and eventually became known worldwide for curtain wall construction. Tarchi initially joined Permasteelisa as a financial controller from 2000 to 2006 before being promoted to director and chief financial officer, a position he held for one year before being promoted again. He was appointed director and deputy general manager in 2007, serving until 2015. Tarchi has a bachelor’s in international business and economics, with a minor in political science and international relations from Sophia University.

The Big Questions is a Monday interview series showcasing prominent figures who have a strong connection to Japan.