Susumu Yui
Japan Leather Goods Meister, Small Goods Category

Kikuyose," a Japanese tradition



The Only Meister in Japan

Traditional techniques such as "sackcloth tailoring" originated in the Japanese clothing culture of the Edo period (1603-1868). The brand "Kipris" has evolved the beautiful technique of expressing the stylishness of drawstrings and paper cases, and incorporated it into leather crafts. The brand is named after the world's most beautiful butterflies that inhabit the tropical rainforests of Central and South America, and is characterized by its beautiful appearance and practicality made with reliable techniques.

In addition, many of the company's craftsmen have acquired first-class certification in the men's accessories category of the technical certification test sponsored by the leather industry association, and the company boasts one of the largest production systems in Japan. The workshop is headed by Susumu Yui. In 2019, he was the only one in Japan to be certified as a "Leather Goods Meister" by the Japan Leather Industry Association in the small goods category. He is still at the forefront of the industry, working on the front lines of manufacturing and training craftspeople.

We interviewed Ms. Yui and two other Level 1 certified staff members about their professional attitude as craftspeople and their approach to human resource development. In the latter half of the interview, we also learn about "Kikuyose," a uniquely Japanese technique inherited from the Japanese clothing culture.

interview (i.e. television, newspaper, etc.)

Kikuyose," a Japanese tradition

Definition of "good quality" as a craftsman

     All three of you have obtained Level 1 in the technical certification examination. How did you decide to become a craftsman and how have you grown?

 Susumu Yui (Yui): I had an older brother who was a leather craftsman, so it was natural for me to follow this path. While learning the various techniques of leather craft, I was always thinking about how to make "good products. The definition of "good" in the work of a craftsman is that there should be nothing strange or uncomfortable about it. In other words, it should look natural and neat. I think this is 100 points, but it is very difficult to achieve. To achieve this, I think with my mind and then move my hands and body. I believe this is the basis of craftsmanship.

 Hidehiro Fujimoto (Fujimoto) I have loved leather craft since I was a student, and I always made small leather goods for free assignments at school. While actually using the things I made, I would go to see products sold in the world and compare them to see what was different. One day, when I was looking at Kipris products at the Daimaru Tokyo department store, it was Koji Ishioka, the head of the MD department, who told me about the products and invited me to visit his workshop. It was there that I met Dr. Yui for the first time. As a result of the many conversations we had, I was given the opportunity to work at the company. Surrounded by skilled senior craftsmen, I was blessed with an environment where I could listen, watch, steal, and constantly learn.

 Natsumi Shinozuka (Shinozuka) I have also loved drawing pictures and making things since I was a child, and I studied bag making at a clothing college. I wanted to get a job making things, but small articles are not taught at school. So I wanted to work for a company that was technically excellent and had a good training system, so I got a job. Now I work as a group leader, and when I teach young staff members and find that they are good at what they do, I try to think about what was good about it and incorporate it into my own work. I also try to convey this attitude to the entire team so that they can be flexible in their learning.

Professionals who give shape to the designer's image

     The sound of manufacturing is pleasant, with tons and tons of ta-ta-toms. Everyone is working silently, but what do you think makes Kipris' craftsmanship unique?

 Yui Our work is all about how to give shape to drawings. A well-developed drawing is filled with the designer's various intentions, aims, and thoughts. I try to assemble them in my mind, and when I see the arrangements, I make a sample. In my case, I basically make this sample only once. Sometimes I come up with the idea while I am sleeping, so I keep thinking and thinking it through. Once I have an image of the work process, I just make it beautifully and quickly. That's why we don't talk much while working.

 Fujimoto: If you just make things carefully, it's actually not that difficult. I do leather craft as a hobby, and when I think about cost performance and productivity, I want to make elaborate items that are not available in the world. That is fun, but I cannot get paid as a professional. What is professional, then, is being able to make beautiful things quickly and consistently. I think about how I can make as many items of the same quality in the same amount of time. At that time, the techniques that I learned from my seniors are sometimes updated just a little. Even though we continue to make the same item, the strain and the feel of the leather are slightly different. Therefore, I keep thinking "how can I make it faster?

 Shinozuka: The interesting thing about this job is that the more you do it, the more you improve. I think there are two types of improvement: technical growth and growth in efficiency, which includes work set-up and understanding. For example, if I were making things individually, I would decide my own production volume by myself. But since this is a company of craftsmen, it is important to know what to make and by when. I think that being able to work with many hands means that there are many opportunities to improve. Just looking at Yui-sensei's samples is a good way to learn, and to have a perspective of "this is how I would do it. Furthermore, there are times when logic catches up with technique in the process of teaching younger students. As I think about how to teach them in a way that is easy to understand, the process and logic become one. This is one of the characteristics of this environment, where you can improve through teaching.


Seeing good things is also work.

     Earlier you showed us a sheet of newspaper that was further made into two sheets. As a craftsman, what do you find difficult about your technique and work?

FUJIMOTO: When I see new drawings, I often think a lot. Especially when it incorporates new techniques or elaborate designs and materials, I have to go through a lot of trial and error. As a craftsman, I see the atmosphere expressed in the drawings, but what nuance should I convey to the outside "straining" craftsmen? One "straining" process can make a product look sharp or soft and fluffy. The technique of "Kikuyose," which I will introduce later, is also important, but I think it is profound how to deal with this world of only 0.1 mm.

Shinozuka: I still have my own habits that sometimes come out, so I always try to be careful. Everyone has a habit of looking at things, and it doesn't affect me that much in normal life, but there are times when I think I am making the card tiers parallel, but they are slightly biased. It is a level that the buyer or user may not notice, but as a craftsman, it is not good enough. When I look at the work of my seniors and see products that are perfectly aligned, I think there is a difference. I think that is what Mr. Yui was talking about earlier, "products that do not make you feel any sense of discomfort.

 Yui I believe it is the sense of craftsmanship. The ability to notice discrepancies, or rather, the accuracy of such discrepancies, determines the final 1%, so if you cannot notice them, you cannot fix them, and you cannot improve. Furthermore, even I cannot make 100 pieces and score 100 points on all of them. That is why I repeat trial and error while reflecting on each project. The craftsman who made the newspaper I mentioned earlier is an outsider, but even that is difficult to do every time. There are not many skilled craftsmen who can take on such a challenge anymore. But if we keep a sample, we can show future generations what first-class work looks like. As a manufacturing company, I think this is also important. That is why I keep all the samples I have made.

Fujimoto: When the doctor's samples are finished, I advise the staff that they should take a look at those samples.

The heir who has yet to be seen is the challenger.

     Please tell us about the importance and difficulty of retaining top-notch skills and craftsmanship.

Yui I also started from a place where I knew nothing. The technology I have acquired has evolved with fashion trends and culture, including technological innovations. In the past, men used to carry long wallets in their jackets, so it was smart to make them thin. Nowadays, many people carry their wallets in their bags, so round zips are popular, and small wallets are becoming popular as people go cashless. It is meaningless to preserve only the technology if there are no people who can enjoy it, so I would like to provide opportunities for people to hold actual products in their hands. If the culture is preserved and nurtured, more young people will naturally aspire to become craftspeople, and good craftspeople will be nurtured through friendly competition.

Fujimoto: We strive to teach the fundamentals well. In addition, I want them to be willing to ask questions about things they don't understand or are curious about. What you realize in your own way will lead to the evolution of technology, and even for the same product, there can be 10 different approaches for 10 different people. I believe it is our job to educate them so that there is no difference in quality even if their approaches are different. I think the great thing about Mr. Yui is that he continues to evolve even after a long career. When I look at the finished samples and such, I am really impressed.

Shinozuka: But looking at Yui-sensei's samples, I really get a lot of ideas. It is really important to learn that there are many different ways to achieve a goal, just because you are not told to do it this way or that way. The only machine we use here is a sewing machine, so we have to think with our brains and move our hands to create something. I look back on my own skills by being exposed to the techniques of good seniors and taking the opportunity to teach them to younger workers. I believe that this is the best environment to grow as a craftsman. For example, the tools we use are all custom-made to be easy to use by our seniors, who teach us how to make them easier to use. How to make them easier to use and what I would do with them lead to my own way of making things. While passing on the traditions, I challenge myself to try new things. I believe that the repetition of this process will lead to tradition and support the culture.

The recipe introduced here is "Kikuyose," which originated in Japan's unique Japanese kimono culture.

Why are we sharing this recipe with you?

The brand "Kipris" makes small leather goods expressing Japanese technology, sensitivity, and Japanese mindfulness. The "Kikuyose" technique introduced here is a corner treatment technique originally called "Sumiyose. But we did not just treat the leather by pulling it over, we aimed to create a beautiful finish. As a result, we started to call it "Kiku-Yose" because the delicate carving looks like a chrysanthemum flower. We would like to introduce this technique well because it gives a much tighter look to small leather goods.


Interview: Kentaro Iida
写真:Tara Kawano


Kikuyose," a Japanese tradition in the making


Leather to fit the pattern.decisionI will do so.

I will keep my leather knives well sharpened.


The heri is strained using a "leather straining machine.


The corners of the leather through the helices are further strained by hand.

Again, it is important to keep leather knives well sharpened. Properly adjusting the tools is also part of the technique. If you don't "cut" to a "cosmetic edge," you should strain with the feeling that you can shave off some of the edges.


Make sure the corners are strained to 0.1 mm and the leather is thick enough.

The trick is to shave it so that it slopes from the inside toward the edge, ideally 0.1 mm thick at the very edge.


Apply glue and firmly stick it to the base leather. Do not apply too much glue, because it will look ugly if there is too much on the reverse side. Leave the "Kikuyose" part without glue.


After putting in the glue, use "Yose-nen" to make "Kiku-Yose". Ideally, one Kiku-Yose should have 9 peaks.

Watch a video of Chrysanthemum Yose

Fold in four, and when the fifth pile comes to the center of the corner, you will have nine neat piles.


Once the "Kikuyose" is properly done, do the same for the remaining areas.


Perforate the cover.

Anyway, sew straight. In Kipris, it is traditional to sew the corners at right angles.


The heated "ippon nen" is used to hold down the snagging of the helicopter return.

It is important to draw the nen so that it is exactly aligned with the tip of the helicopter and smooth to the touch. This improves usability and gives a sharp impression.


Lastly, Kipris style is to draw "tamanen" as a cosmetic design feature.

For men's wear, pulling "tama-nen" tightens the atmosphere, but for women's wear, if you want to give a softer impression, do not pull "tama-nen.



Author Profile

Susumu Yui

Susumu Yui (Central Japan)

Born in Shizuoka Prefecture in 1949
, Yui entered the industry at the age of 18 because a relative was in the same line of work.
He has inherited the traditional Japanese technique of "Fukomono-shidashi," which is backed by history.
He also devotes himself to teaching and training young craftsmen in order to pass on his skills.
Passed the 1st class examination for the technical certification of bags, handbags, and accessories in 2011 in the accessories category. (Sponsored by Japan Leather Industry Association/Japan Bag and Handbag Association)
・Winning of MFU Meister "Technical Heritage" in 2012
(Japan Men's Fashion Association)
・Accredited as JAPAN LEATHER GOODS MEISTER in the small articles category in 2028.
(Japan Leather Goods Meister, Japan Leather Industry Association)

Hidehiro Fujimoto (left)

Born in 1980, Hidehiro Fujimoto graduated from the Product Design Department of Tokyo Designer Gakuin and joined the company in 2001.

Natsumi Shinozuka (right)

Born in 1990, Natsumi joined the company in 2012 after graduating from Bunka Fashion College with a degree in bag design.