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Yorozu Long Interview

Yorozu × Japan Marche

Obi as Artistic, Excellent Piece of Fabric: Interview to Designer Ms. Yuko Murakami

“Come in,” greets designer Ms. Yuko Murakami, the creator of Obi Bag, or bags made from kimono-tying accessory called obi. Just by being greeted, you cannot help but to be fond of her gracefulness and generous smile. If there is anything called a “jewel box of kimono fabric”, the small atelier of Yorozu International Inc. must be it. Welcomed by a kakejiku, or kimono hanging furniture, with bright kimono waiting to be worn, whoever walks in is mesmerized by what jumps into the eyes; bags, skirts, dresses and table runners made from what once used to be a kimono, obi or other kimono accessories. It is known that, on one kimono fabric, there are so many shades of a certain color and each shade makes it possible for a dimensional design with depth to what is expressed on a kimono, obi or its accessories. The kimono-arranged items at the atelier proves this. Japan Marche was able to have an interview session with Designer Murakami to find out her passion about kimono and her Obi Bags. 


Japan Marche: How do you find obi that inspires you?

Murakami:The funny thing is, I don’t think I ever had to “find” an obi. I feel that what I have been looking for naturally falls into my hands. There is no idea as to what pattern to procure- only an image of what I want to create. It must also be because I am able to share my image and inspiration with my suppliers. We probably have some kind of chemistry. Before visiting my suppliers, I would share the image of my new creation, then make my visit thinking about the next artwork or a person I am making my artwork for, and the thought must attract me to the ideal kimono or obi. 

Japan Marche: What types of obi do you use?

Murakami: There is no one specific type of weaving or dying I prefer as long as the design matches with my creation. Kyoto Nishijin-ori, Okinawa Bingata, Kaga Yuzen, Aomori Sashiko, Gunma Kiryu are some types of obi used to list a few. The obi we use at Yorozu are not “recycled”. They are unused obi waiting for a new owner. It is not rare to find them delivered in a kiri (paulownia) box with a certificate. That alone should explain the quality of obi we use. These amazing intricate pieces of art may not have a chance to see sunlight ever again, but by recreating them into bags, they can be enjoyed by a wider range of people keen on buying quality items.

Japan Marche: What is your mission?

Murakami: What is needed when enjoying kimono and obi is that you free yourself from “normal” ideas and typical color scheme. Just like when you are coordinating western clothes, you do not need to be scared of matching different colors and patterns. For example, you may never have dreamed of matching blue with bright green because those are just not your colors, but once the eyes get used to it, it becomes “your” color. But because kimono and obi are items not used daily, people tend to be modest about matching colors and patterns. So, I think kimono and obi needs to be interpreted as something new, not something traditional; this way, you are free to choose and mix what you like. It is not how much experience you have with kimono and obi. The eyes will get used to what is matched up with. This is exactly the case with Obi Bag. Leather, which is western element, and obi, a Japanese element, matches well but no one realizes because that option was never given to them. Young eyes should be exposed to many colors and different types of material so those choices become natural to the eyes. It is not about calculation of whether totally different types of material/color matches with each other. It is about harmonization and the aesthetics it gives. To be honest, I use obi not because it is traditional, Japanese piece of work. Obi is used simply because it is an excellent piece of artistic fabric, and something so fine needs to be passed down to generations to come. 

WHAT'S Yorozu?

Obi Bag –Bag using Japanese Traditional Clothing Decor, Obi, and Leather-

Japan Marche introduces Obi Bag and its wide variety of designs from Yorozu International. Obi is a decorative element of Japanese traditional wear, kimono, and is used to hide strings that hold the wrapped kimono in place. By using obi as part of the bag design, same shaped bags become a whole new design. Bags come in series of Formal Bag, A Bag, Clutch Bag, Square Bag and Tote Bag. While many of the bags use embossed cowhide, some uses genuine black crocodile to draw out real elegance of obi used with it. 

Obi Bag introduced at Japan Marche is one and only design in the world; no other person will own the same design bag. 

Innate beauty of kimono and obi does not change over time. It represents eternal beauty. Material of obi is a gift from nature. Together with real quality material, craftsmen, inheriting traditional craftsmanship, passionately and diligently puts their energy into creating one piece of obi. 

To Japanese ancestors, obi was not only a practical decorative element; it originally was considered a protective charm for keeping away evil spirits and sorcery. The aesthetics of obi becomes a whole through its attractive look, symbolism of each design and tradition passed down for hundreds of years.