We interviewed designer Eriko Yamaguchi about the development story behind the Sou Series.
–First of all, please tell us about the features of your new bag "Sou".
The main theme of "Sou" was to create a bag that is like a friend, with the image of being close to the user's body and to everyday life, but the production process was different from previous bags. The most distinctive feature of the bag is its soft, fluffy, and slightly relaxed form, and where this comes from is the pattern. The katagami is a piece of paper used to make a model before making a bag out of leather, and it is actually made of a single piece of paper. It has a rather interesting creature-like shape, and at first glance it is difficult to tell where the front, back, bottom, and gussets of the bag are, but I felt like I wanted to express "the world where everything is connected" in a slightly philosophical way.
–Was this the first time you made it that way?
This was a first for me. For example, with the popular "yozora," I first imagine the size of the length-to-length ratio in my mind, and then decide on the specific length. From there, I start with the front, then the bottom, then the gusset, and so on, separating the parts as I go. This time, however, I wanted to find my own way of doing things that is not found in the textbooks, so I decided to change the way I make things.
–What made you decide to do so?
Every year I think I have tried to express my personality at that time, but I think that in the past few years, my desire to do my best at Matrigol (our factory in Bangladesh) has been more dominant. I also felt it was my mission to show that I could make it this far, even in the difficult situation of Corona. But last year, I felt that I had succeeded in delivering this to customers, so I decided to put the factory aside for the next time and return to my childlike mindset and think about everything more freely. From there, I relaxed a little and began to explore possible forms by spreading out a large piece of pattern paper and kneading it by hand. I think this may have been influenced by various factors, such as the birth of my child or a change in my environment, but I thought that it might be better to relax than to put more effort into it now.–What does it mean to relax?
In a sense, relaxing one's strength requires trust in the materials, and there is trust that if it is this way, it will turn out this way. But what is important is after you relax and create freely. The customer is always on the other side of the bag, so the minimum functionality and the final details were revised over and over again, millimeter by millimeter. So, unlike rough and simple, I think it is important to have a balance between gentleness and strictness, to finish the bag like a craftsman.
–Are there any particular aspects of the new way of making the product that you are particular about?
While trying to make this bag with a single piece of patterned paper, I wanted to create a little bit of shading in the bag. The difference between the front and back of the gusset is what shows this the most, and I felt that this is a part of the bag that is uniquely Japanese, and I think that I was able to express the three-dimensional softness of the bag even more. After all, I myself am influenced by Eastern values such as Japan and Bangladesh, so I think the Japanese element is expressed in this shading, and I would like to use wooden parts as a symbol of Bangladesh. I am also a petite woman, so a bag that can hold a computer always seems large to me, but I thought that by slimming down the front, I could change the impression a little. I really considered various elements in the process of making this bag. Looking back on the process, I realize that it was not at all what I intended this time. In the past, most of the bags I have made have come from my mind, but this time, as I was making the bag, I realized that this is the kind of person I am, and I feel that it is a bag that is very me. I think I naturally think about the customers there, and I feel that this is because I have met so many customers and talked with the staff at the store."–How did you find your own identity?
I felt that Emy, which we launched last fall, was able to raise the level of craftsmanship to another level by filling it with techniques that Bangladeshi artisans can now express. However, after that, in order to go any further, I had to dig deeper into myself and fight within myself, and I naturally had to ask myself what was uniquely me. I felt a lack of confidence, like I had never studied bag design at school, but at the same time, I felt that there was a part of me that could think differently about what everyone else thought I was doing, and that there was a part of me that was unique to me that could think differently about jewelry and other things. Because I also design apparel, I think I have a freedom of thinking that is not limited to bags alone. The reason why I can say that Sou is a bag that is uniquely me is because it is a work that was completed while engaging in the greatest amount of dialogue with myself. I have shut down dialogue with others and exposed myself too much, so I have more fear than ever of being denied. Still, I have no regrets because I think I have settled on a work that I feel is uniquely me. I hope to continue this style of manufacturing in the future.–What was the impact on the factory?
Sample master Morshed expressed that "this bag is out of my head until now. Why are the gussets and the back attached? Why a single piece? So you wonder about many things. So I was able to expand my mind, I guess. I started to think about things I didn't have to think about before, like how to devise new ways of doing things, or how to use different techniques.–What do you value as a designer?
I place great importance on being inspired by nature. This is because I believe that the beauty of nature is universal, whether in developed or developing countries. But a bag is also a fashion item, so it is also important that it is something that is close to the customer's body and that its movement is comfortable, even if only for a second. And when thinking about how to achieve this, the attractiveness of the material and the skill of the craftsman are also very important. We value, and will continue to value, the creation of products that do not separate these three elements, but rather multiply them.
–In fact, the launch of similar concept products will continue after this, right?
Yes (laughs). I think the next one, and the one after that, will be a product that people will think, "That's more like me than this bag," and they will say, "Oh, this is what I wanted to do." I think it will be especially pleasing to those who have been supporting me for a long time. Please look forward to it.