It’s no secret that Japan’s once-legendary luxury market has been more or less stagnant and saturated for the past few years. But while the desire to be seen with the latest “It” bag from a top European house may no longer be at the forefront of most consumers’ minds, the Japanese remain some of the savviest and most discerning shoppers in the world.
This story first appeared in the March 26, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
As Japan’s love of labels is being replaced by a love of high-quality items crafted with fine materials and unexpected details, a few boutique accessory designers are getting a moment to shine, creating buzz among consumers and editors alike with their creations.
Designer: Daisuke Iwanaga
Background: While working as a buyer for a Levi’s concept store in Tokyo, Iwanaga spent his free time running a small made-to-order bag business out of his home. A journalist for JC Report spotted him in Paris and asked him who made his bag, which led to an introduction to L’Eclaireur. The boutique committed to its first order before Iwanaga had even set up his brand. Its first season was fall 2007.
The Name: “We gave the brand a name that used its birthstone and astrological constellation,” says Iwanaga.
Inspiration: Japanese culture and his own family. “A lot of the parts I use are from ships, because my father and grandfather are emergency divers. I thought I couldn’t make something original without using inspiration from my own family or way of life.”
The Look: Timeless bags and wallets in neutral colors, made from luxurious—sometimes exotic—skins tanned in Japan and with intricate, handcrafted details.
Available at: L’Eclaireur, Paris; Isetan and Tomorrowland Edition, Tokyo; Patron of the New, New York; Susan, San Francisco; Antonioli, Milan; LN-CC, London.
Wholesale Prices: $450 to $6,000
Sales: About $600,000 a year.
Ed Robert Judson
Designers: Satoshi Ezaki and Ryuki Yamaka
Background: Ezaki and Yamaka met at design school. After graduating, they kept in touch while Ezaki was in Japan and Yamaka was in London, each making his own creations. They eventually decided to create a label together, starting with small leather goods.
The Name: “[Judson] is a fictional craftsman,” says Ezaki. “We combined the names of a scientist and an inventor to create him.”
Inspiration: “Ordinary, everyday things,” says Yamaka. The pair takes elements of common or industrial items and reinvents them for use with accessories.
The Look: Bags, coin cases, notebooks and portfolios made of thick leather that ages beautifully, with unique design elements and hardware. “We want to make products that have originality,” says Ezaki.
Available at: 1LDK, Restir and Tomorrowland, Tokyo; Rail, Brescia, Italy.
Wholesale Prices: $70 to $1,100
Sales: About $180,000 a year.
Designer: Junko Makino
Background: After working as a clothing designer for a Japanese manufacturer, Makino started her brand for fall 2009. In light of the global economic crisis, which coincided with Enevare’s founding, she chose to limit her label to accessories for now.
The Name: An amalgamation of the Norwegian words for “the only” and “being.”
Inspiration: Anything from furniture and architecture to history. “My theme for fall is Japanese armor and Western armor.”
The Look: Edgy, artlike pieces with unexpected details, as well as more basic styles in soft, durable leather. “I like the juxtaposition of leather with metallic textures.”
Available at: Tomorrowland, Barneys New York and PLST stores, Tokyo.
Wholesale Prices: $250 to $1,000
Sales: About $240,000 a year.