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Kyoden Masao Tatsuta

Interview with creators ~ From the scene of creation ~
Kyoden Masao Tatsuta "Aiming to make things that people who own them can be proud of."

At the studio and office that has just moved. With his trademark hat and glasses, and his friendly smile, he has an aura that makes people feel at ease.

Mr. Masao Tatsuta of "Kyoden", who I hope to appear this time, is a "brand" creator with a slightly different stance from previous writers.
In 2005, he founded "Kyoden" with the desire to convey the culture of Kyoto to the world, and debuted with the original brand "Zen" , which is a fusion of Kyoto Yuzen and jeans, and attracted a great deal of attention.
11 years later. During those years, while valuing the existing fans, it was also a day of devoting myself to pursuing new creativity and developing it as a brand.
The results are finally taking shape.
We visited the workshop and office that will be the front line base for future development.

As a pioneer of hand-painted Kyo-Yuzen jeans

─What kind of work did you do before starting your own business?

I have loved working since I was working part-time in high school, and I wanted to become a member of society as soon as possible, so I got a job immediately after graduating.
After changing jobs several times, I joined a small apparel manufacturer, and in the end I was entrusted with everything from product planning to sales. I believe my experience here changed my life.

─ So you had the momentum to carry the company on your back.

I was there for eight years while people were quitting more and more. That said, I didn't sell products that I wanted to wear, and I was often scolded for my lack of planning ability. The president was full of contradictions in what he said in a one-man show (laughs). But I am so grateful for that experience.
Because the world is full of contradictions, isn't it? If I hadn't had that experience, I wouldn't be able to stand it now (laughs). I could have continued working, but my father's illness made it necessary to be flexible with my work style, so I took the plunge and decided to quit my job and become independent.

─What kind of thoughts did you put into “Kyoden”?

I decided to make my own brand by making use of my experience so far, but I'm sorry, but I didn't have a big ambition of "I want to make this". However, I was born and raised in Kyoto, and I also gained experience in apparel in Kyoto, so I wanted to make it a brand that widely conveys the culture and technology of "Kyoto", which is the most familiar to me. The company name was "Kyoden" as it was, and it was originally written in kanji.

Kyoto Yuzen hand-painted jeans "ZEN" . The original brand that Mr. Tatsuta launched first. With the motto of "Zen" deeply engraved in Japanese culture, he pursues manufacturing that conveys the thoughts of the creator.

Hand-painted jeans with a wide variety of variations, including those with real gold and silver leaf.

─How did you come up with the combination of hand-painted Kyo-Yuzen and jeans?

It was just around the time when the Japanese pattern boom started, and I wanted to create something new by combining techniques unique to Kyoto with trendy items.
One of the things I bound myself to was that out of courtesy to the company I worked for, I would not touch my previous suppliers and customers. The first thing that came to my mind was a belt with a Japanese pattern.
At that time, it was still common to have a phone book, so I decided to call whatever I could get my hands on. You are making leather patches.
While I was talking about what I wanted to do, he asked me how I would like to work with jeans, and introduced me to someone who draws pictures on jeans using the Yuzen technique.

─ So it rolled in an unexpected direction. But it turned out to be all right.

No, at first I just drew a picture on ready-made jeans and brought it to a retail store as a product, but it was ignored (laughs).
In order to make it a proper brand, I started by going to Okayama, the home of the brand, and making jeans. Based on my original idea, I had the pattern drawn in hand-drawn Yuzen, and "Zen" was born.
With the 40 pairs of jeans I had completed, I visited a store that had Japanese patterns that I had researched in specialized magazines.
Luckily, two stores in America Mura, Osaka and Ameyoko, Ueno, Tokyo, were happy to handle it, but things got stuck from there.
Especially when I go to rural areas, there are many times when I have no choice but to accept the conditions of the opponent who is disadvantageous to me. I started to think that this would be tough, so I changed my sales target to the media.

─Do you mean publicity?

Well, at the time I didn't know anything about it, and when I saw an article advertisement in a magazine, I thought, "I want it to be published like this" (laughs).
My way of doing things is dirty (laughs).
I don't know what you mean, you came all the way from Kyoto and you're right in front of me I knew that if I didn't go that far, I wouldn't be treated properly.
Even if I was told that there was no person in charge, I would say, "When would you like to come?" I was confident that if I met the person in charge, I would be able to do something about it.
With that momentum, I went around 4 or 5 companies, and 2 magazines introduced me. It's got more response than I imagined, and it feels like it's come all at once.
A year later, we launched a brand of small leather goods called “Daruma” that matched “Zen”, which was also well received. However, this trend lasted for about five years.

"Daruma" is a Japanese accessory brand. It was born as a brother brand of "Zen", and has been developed mainly for wallets and small leather goods. This is a wallet "Genbu" that uses leather with a turtle shell-shaped embossing, and a wallet rope "Genbu" made of Kyoto Buddhist prayer beads. Wallets that were outsourced to production are now switched to in-house production.

The handcrafted wristwatch of "Daruma", which was created in collaboration with watchmaker ARKRAFT's Hidekazu Araki, is also popular.

Overcoming the long "stray" period

─Both “Zen” and “Bodhidharma” are very popular.

Of course, the demand will not go away, and we are increasing the number of items. I am truly grateful to the customers who continue to be my fans.
However, with the end of the Japanese pattern boom, it became impossible to expect the same sales as at the beginning. I was desperate to find a product that would bring back that momentum.
I started to shape whatever came to my mind. Some of them withdrew early. The same goes for loincloths (laughs).
It's good to be featured in various media! I thought, but it didn't lead to sales at all, and I held my head. This kind of straying continued for quite some time.

─The ability to turn ideas into reality is amazing. Where is the judgment that it is bad is made?

I've experienced the momentum of "Zen", so I think it's useless if I don't have a response.
Once again, if we can't produce something as powerful as Zen, the company will shrink. What's more, during these five years, there was a time when we were unable to find a maker of leather products, which was becoming our main product, and our products were out of stock for a long time.
At that time, we asked craftsmen in Tokyo to do the work, but I thought it was important to do things within our own sight.

─The hardest thing is not being able to make something even though there is a demand for it.

For a while, I even went to learn to sew myself. But it's also clumsy... Yes, this is also one of the strays (laughs).
There was a time when everything was spinning. Witnessing such a situation, I guess I couldn't draw my own future in the company.
Two employees who had been with us for a long time quit in quick succession. That time was the hardest. I felt like everything I had done was rejected, and I was depressed.

─In the midst of all this, there is a new brand that is gaining recognition little by little.

The launch itself was about three years ago, but "COTOCUL" was created by changing the way of thinking.
Since "Zen", I have been promoting the traditions and techniques of Kyoto on all fronts, but I've come to think that it's already natural.
Going one step further, we wanted to provide a product that is a class above the rest, so that users can be proud of owning it.
At first, I made a simple iPhone case, but little by little, I started to appreciate the vivid colors of the gradation dyeing.

"COTOCUL" is a coined word that combines the ancient city (koto) + culture (culture). The product in the photo is a long wallet that is hand-dyed using a kimono-dyeing technique known as gradation dyeing, using a highly rare leather called jinama.

To the next stage with Kurozangawa

──So you had another fateful encounter.

It was the fall of 2015. I wanted to learn more about leather, so when I was visiting various places, I saw "Kurozangawa" exhibited at an exhibition.
It is used in armor and high-end kendo armor, and I thought it was interesting. One of the reasons I was interested was that I was doing kendo.
The story goes back, but I started kendo six years ago, and the reason was loincloth (laughs). When I was looking for a market that would sell well, I heard that people who practice kendo wear loincloths, so I went to a kendo dojo to sell it.
Well, I know it was a hoax (laughs). Then I was asked if I should try swinging a bamboo sword, and I did, and it was strangely fun.
Since then, what I've been doing all the time has led to this time... Well, life is not a wasteful experience (laughs). I immediately went to Himeji, where Mr. Hiroshi Sakamoto, a producer of Kurozan leather, was located, and we agreed to work together.

Mr. Masao Tatsuta of Kyoden (pictured left) and Mr. Hiroshi Sakamoto of Sakamoto Shoten (pictured right) exchange handshakes passionately with black leather in the background.

Mr. Sakamoto, a producer of Kurozan leather, at work. Kurozan leather is made by dyeing white tanned leather, which is traditional in Himeji, and then roughening the surface.

It takes a lot of time and effort to apply lacquer and dry it 8 to 9 times before it is finally completed. Moreover, currently, Mr. and Mrs. Sakamoto are the only two people in the world who can make this leather.

Kurozan leather finished as a product. Depending on the viewing angle, the layers of lacquer applied to the surface sparkle, so it is called a "leather diamond."

─ So you used a method called crowdfunding for the debut of the Kurozan leather series?

I don't care about profit, I want to know how much demand there is first.
Then, the growth far exceeded our expectations, and we achieved 200% of the target amount on the 5th day of the release.
The number of craftsmen was overwhelmingly insufficient to meet the flood of orders, but at that time, the only remaining employee, Mr. T, showed an unexpected talent and was able to finish the sewing quickly and neatly. .
With this growth, I was able to rely on him as a craftsman, which was a great harvest.

"COTOCUL" long wallet made of black leather (left image is indigo dyed, right image is black dyed long wallet). Its luxurious sense of luxury fulfills the desire to have something different from others.

Mr. T has become an indispensable craftsman for Kyoden. "He was a fan of 'Zen,' so he was welcomed into the staff. At first, it was ridiculous when I put him in charge of sales (laughs). I would like to do it.”

─ There is also a happy news that will be a tailwind.

Yes, at the world's highest international fashion material trade fair "Premier Vision" held in Paris in September 2016, Mr. Sakamoto's Kurozan leather became the first Japanese company to win the "Premier Vision Award, Leather Category Handle Award". ” was obtained.
It's the top of the world. In fact, it seems that there are inquiries from world-famous companies, but it is difficult to respond because mass production is not possible.
Conversely, if I had met him a year later, we might not have been able to create a product together.

Kurozan Leather won Japan's first "Premier Vision Award, Leather Category Handle Award". Mr. Sakamoto with a trophy in his hand and a smile.

─ So you have become a world-class brand.

Our performance has not completely recovered yet, and we need to make more efforts to increase the recognition of "COTOCUL."
In particular, I would like to carefully nurture the Kurozan leather series, which has won the highest award in the world. However, I don't want to stretch out more than necessary and make it look bigger.
I myself have overcome various things so far, and the state that I have reached in my own way is "life size".
When I first launched Zen, I believed that branding was about making people think, "This is a great brand." You entrusted the pride of the creator to the product.
But I think it's different now. We don't dress so well, and we let the audience see us as we really are, saying things like, "We made a lot of mistakes," "We're doing it together now," and "We're starting again." I think so.

─So, as long as you create an attractive product, it will speak for itself. What is your goal now?

Our goal of creating world-class brands originating in Kyoto and producing products that are recognized around the world has not changed since the beginning.
Also, as a company's raison d'etre, I think it's important to make people close to us happy. I want to do my best.
The difficult time was just the 10th anniversary, and I think it was the timing when I had to change. Thanks to this, we once again realized the importance of a sense of speed in making and selling our own products.
In the end, it all boils down to planning and making things that people will accept.
In life, there are times when you sink, but when you sink, you just float up. And only those who try to float will float. I believe so. Until the results come out, it's a battle with yourself.

-I think you can already see the light. I look forward to seeing your further success. Thank you for today.

Is it okay to go so far as to say that? Mr. Tatsuta, who frankly talked about life-size “Kyoden”.
I can convince you that the work you have done so far has been connected by various connections, and that it is the skill of this personality.
His indomitable fighting spirit, his ability to read the times, his light footwork, and his respect for inherited techniques are a fusion of creativity that will continue to keep an eye on.

(Interview date: November 16, 2016 / Text: Writer, Kiyo Morimoto)

≪Interview with creators ~ From the scene of creation ~