Founded by Makoto and Yoshimi Kawai in 2007, the Superior Labor hub is cradled by the Okayama Mountains in Japan. The small team handcrafts strong, utilitarian companions – bags, wallets & clothing - out of materials with true heart & soul. Canvas, vegetable tanned leather, hardware, with hand printed signature lettering printed. They stay busy and always look straight ahead and what’s to come.
One night, years ago I saw a bag in the window of a closed shop in Venice Beach. I wanted it so badly & went back the next day to buy it. I was intrigued by who had made such a fabulously utilitarian bag. The stencil said Superior Labor but I could not find it anywhere online! After sleuthing for over a year I found the makers all the way in Okayama, Japan. I planned to visit. It was August (I do not recommend travelling in Japan in mid-August when 6 months pregnant). I was on an inspiration trip & caught a fast train from Kyoto for an hour then, Makoto & Yoshimi picked me up from the train for an hour drive into the mountains to their haven. And what a place! A grouping of buildings, sheds, a lean-to, a shop, a cafe, their home & workshop - the beautiful, magical destination that is Nap Village.
Can you describe in detail your workspace and your location?
My atelier is a former elementary school, which was built in the 1940’s Here we are surrounded by mountains in Okayama, Western Japan.
What are your morning rituals?
I wake my daughter of 3 month with my kiss.
What keeps you inspired?
Staying in nature. Seeing a lot of movies. I imagine making costumes and tools for movies.
What’s the story behind Superior Labor?
I was a repairman of a car when I was young. After that, I went around the United States to buy vintage clothing. I learned craftsmanship at the automobile factory, and I saw a lot of clothes and nature in the United States. Through this experience I started THE SUPERIOR LABOR.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I take photos, ride my motorcycle, play with my child and dogs, and look after plants and animals and do carpentry work. I’m quite busy!
What do you love about working with leather & canvas?
I love both and aim the brand concept around them: “We take pride in craftsmanship and never skimp on time and effort.”
What do you always keep in your bag?
There are cigarettes, coins and dreams for the future in my THE SUPERIOR LABOR bag.
I want to tell of our craftsmanship and ideas to the next generation. I look forward to adventures in the future for young people and children.