“It’s the first time I’ve come back in perhaps 10 or 15 years,” Philippe Starck said of Tokyo, a city he once called home. “And when I left you some years ago, you were, like always, very nice, charming people. But today I am very, very, very impressed. Because you are all so sexy, so handsome, so elegant. I have in front of me an atomic bomb.”

While some might question the appropriateness of Starck’s bomb reference, which the designer made to a group of Japanese journalists assembled in Tokyo, the local press corps appeared to take it in stride. He even managed to eke out some laughs from the crowd.

Starck said that both Tokyo and its citizens are unrecognizable now — suggesting that their fashion sensibility has only increased over the years — but he still loves them. He designed the Asahi Beer Hall, which was completed in 1989 and is now seen as one of Tokyo’s iconic landmarks. Located in the historic neighborhood of Asakusa, it is topped with a golden flame, making it immediately recognizable.

“I am proud because as a building, 20 years ago or more I think, it was a frontier between rich and poor. And the poor people of Asakusa told me that this building has changed their life,” the designer said Tuesday. “Because suddenly they were proud, and because there was this building, slowly but surely the area has changed and it’s not a lost area like before. So they were proud, so I am proud they are proud.”

Starck was in Japan to launch his collaboration collection with Brazilian sandal brand Ipanema. It was his first major project with footwear, but he said he approached it in much the same way he approaches anything else.

“This possibility to produce millions of pairs a day gave me the real weapon because I am not a designer. I make politics, not design,” he said. “I think we have the right product which is the prototype of product which fits with the next values we shall have in the next years.”

The theme of the collection is “timeless elegance,” which Starck described as the ability to keep something for a long time because of its simple, elegant design.

“The best way to be ecological is not to buy ecological products, it’s just to buy less,” he said. “And to buy less you have to keep it a longer time.”

Starck also shared his views on fashion in a more general sense.

“The only respectable fashion is the freedom,” he said. “The freedom of your choice, the freedom of your difference, the freedom to choose what you want to be and what you are.”

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