Pioneer of Disruptive Eco-Innovation
President of INCS Corporation, Teacher for Innovation and Sustainability, Trustee Board Member, Inventor, Extreme Board Sports Rider
Tetsuya Ohara dreamed of becoming an inventor from an early age. Starting in America’s Cup sailcloth R&D in Osaka in 1985, the breadth of his career has taken him through design, research and development, leading innovation for companies such as Patagonia, Gap Inc., and design consulting for NASA. Currently he works as President of the INCS Corporation, an innovation consulting firm in San Francisco, and also teaches innovation and sustainability at business schools around the world.
Most of Tetsuya’s career has been spent determining how humans can better coexist with nature while continuing to drive innovation. As he puts it on his personal website, “Nature has created an ultimate balance between functionality, sustainability, and beauty. We must learn from nature about biodiversity to build a sustainable ecosystem in business and society.” It's thoughts like this that have led to several of his personal achievements, such as creating a petroleum-free wetsuit out of Guayule, a native plant of Arizona.
A love of sustainability and performance apparel made Ministry of Supply stand out for him back in 2011, when he was introduced by a friend to co-founder Gihan. “I always support startups that are trying to do the right things in terms of people, planet, and product. Ministry of Supply is one of them.”
Outside of work, one of Ohara’s passions is watersports, dating as far back as 1981. Recent innovations in hydrofoiling—a wing-like structure beneath a surf- or wind-board that actually raises it above the water to reduce drag—meant re-learning his hobby from scratch, which he attacked (and conquered) with great energy. “Itʼs not easy to learn such skills, but it's always fantastic to try new things.”
Q & A
We caught up with Tetsuya to get more of his story.
What would you consider your Life's Work?
To acquire an altruistic mind and share it with others.
#1 book recommendation? Why?
The Book of Five Rings, written by Miyamoto Musashi in 1643. The book teaches us the importance of continuous learning. Continuous learning brings us to a place beyond our imaginations.
Describe your daily routine from waking up to going to bed.
Wake up at 6:00 am and go to bed at 11:00 pm. A game plan of the day is planned a day before at least, remaining flexibility to prepare unexpected events (to catch waves and winds, etc.). Every day has a different routine.
What keeps you productive during your routines? Any hacks you've discovered?
Goal setting for a day, week, month, quarter, year, and beyond help make my routines productive. Preparation always reminds me of the value of the process.
How do you choose which items to wear every day? Any items you wear more than once a week?
The more you know the less you need… versatility, functionality, and beauty are important to me. I have a few items that I wear more than once a week for that reason.
How does Ministry of Supply clothing make a difference in your life?
I pretty much stopped wearing formal clothing when I left Japan in 1996. After 2011, the Apollo Shirt became my go-to because of its performance (fast-wicking, quick-dry), fit, and style. In 2010, I was appointed as a member of the board of visitors at Pepperdine University Graziadio School of Business and Management. Instead of wearing a traditional dress shirt, I wore the Apollo to present myself appropriately when I attended their board meeting. It was perfect timing to meet with the Apollo shirt.
What are your favorite Ministry of Supply pieces?
I was looking for a piece that covered fall/winter activities. When I wore the Doppler Packable Jacket it felt like a very thin breathable wetsuit, something that does not exist in the market. I tested the jacket for snowboarding in Tahoe and windsurfing in Santa Cruz in the following week. The aerodynamic design, ventilation, drawcord, hoodie size, stretch, PFC-free durable water repellency, wool lining, inner pocket… it all worked perfectly for both extreme sports, and it became my go-to for fall/winter activities. I cannot wait to travel with this piece.
Some people describe wearing our clothing as "unlocking a superpower" - what activities do you find yourself doing in our gear that you wouldn't usually do?
I would love to play golf wearing the Kinetic Pant. I usually do not play golf... but for some reason, I can clearly imagine myself playing very well with the Kinetic Pant.
What motivates you over the long run?
Overall wellbeing in regards to family, friends, passion, business, and health.
What is something you've learned and grown from?
Enjoy the journey, not the destination.
Shop Tetsuya's Favorites
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