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It’s actually quite a funny story. When I first met my husband, he had just been to Japan. He couldn’t stop talking about how much he loved the place, and the one thing he kept going on about was how he bought this amazing leather pen case roll. Throughout the following few years, every time he brought out his pen case roll, he would admire it and talk about how much he loved it. When I then decided to open an online shop selling artisanal products from the places we travel to, he immediately said that I HAVE to find the person that made this pencil case. It wasn’t such an easy task tracking down Mr. Murakami. In fact it took about a year, but I finally managed to get in touch with him. I cannot even tell you how excited my husband was to meet him.

We went to his shop/workshop in Tokyo and he did not disappoint. His products are simply amazing. Each item is so carefully thought out and designed perfectly.  

Here is my interview with Mr. Murakami:

Q: Please give us a brief background on yourself. What started your interest in leather goods?

I worked in design at an architectural office but wanted to use my hands more to make something. I wanted something which lasts and ages well with time. I thought of wood or iron or leather. I decided wood and iron take up more space and also make too much noise when handling. So I went with leather.

Q: You studied for 2 years in Florence. Give us a brief story about your time there.

I worked in the outskirts of Florence, and the work day ended at 5 o'clock and nobody stayed overtime, even when they only needed just a little bit of time to finish the project. We started at 8:30 am, there was a 10 minutes break at 10 o'clock, and another 10 minutes break in the afternoon and everyone rested then. Japanese workers have the image of hardworking and serious, but to the contrary, they just sit around, not taking breaks and just carrying on till after hours. I felt Italians work hard, concentrating during the working hours.

Q: Once you finished studying in Florence, did you come back immediately to start your own business? How did M-Piu get started?

After coming back from Florence, I stayed with my former boss at the design (arichitectual) office for a few years. I spent sometime preparing and started m-piu in 2001. But I was still doing more work for the design office.

Q: Please explain the meaning behind the name ‘M-piu’

M is for Murakami, piu is PLUS in Italian, so I meant the sewing craftsmen, leather dealers, all the people involved in producing the products. The PLUS is also for the customers who buy the products and through them using the goods, they add to the product (since leather looks better with age and use).

Q: Where do you get the inspiration for your designs?

When I come up with some structure, I start thinking, for example, what if I use it to make a wallet. Could I also use it for pen case, etc.? It feels like I suddenly come up with the new image but actually it came together after daily experiences and many thought process.

Q:ご自身の背景について簡単に教えてください。革製品に関心をもったきっかけはなんですか。

設計事務所に勤務していたのですが、もう少し自分の手で作ってみたく、素材としては, 使っていくと味が出る、経年変化を楽しめるものがいいなと思い、木、鉄、革の辺りかなと思ったのですが, 木、鉄は、音もうるさいし、場所もとるし、その中で革が一番手っ取り早かったので。

Q:2年間フローレンスで学ばれていたそうですが、その時の印象的なエピソードなどがあれば教えてください。

僕が働させてもらったところは、フィレンツェ郊外にありましたが、たしか夕方5時で終わっていたのですが、そこの人たち絶対残業しないんです。あとちょっとここ縫えば終わりなのにっていう時でも、はいおしまいって割り切れる。で、朝は8時半からだったか、で10時に10分休憩があり、午後も10分休憩があって、そこは皆ちゃんと休む。だらだらやらないんです。日本人はどちらかというと真面目というイメージですが、逆にいうと、残業すればいいし、休憩取らないでやっちゃえばいいしって、実はダラダラやるのが得意なんじゃないかと。イタリア人は、集中して仕事するんだなと思いました。

Q:フローレンスから帰国後はすぐにご自身のビジネスを始められたのですか。M-piuはどのように始まったのですか。

フィレンツェに行く前に、元の上司のやっていた設計事務所に籍を移していたんですが、フィレンツェから帰ってから数年は、またその事務所に厄介になってました。で、ちょっとずつ準備していって、m-piuを2001年に始めたのですが、その頃もまだ設計事務所の仕事の方が多かった気がします。

Q:”M-piu”の名称の由来を教えてください。

mはmurakamiのmで、piuはイタリア語の+の意味ですが、僕+ 縫製職人さん とか、革屋さん とか、m+の商品に関わった人 って意味です。またm+の商品は、自分で使って味が出て完成させていくので、僕+買ってもらったお客さん という意味合いもあります。

Q:製品をデザインする際はどのようにインスピレーションを得ていますか。

なにか構造的な仕組みを思いつくとその仕組みを例えば財布に使うとどうなるか、ペンケースに使えるか、とか考えたります。その仕組みを思いつくのは突然思いつく感じなのですが、実は日々の経験が、ちょっとづつ積み重なってきていて、思いついたと思った時は、その具現化するタイミングに来たんじゃないかと思います。

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Check out M-Piu products on www.twolittlepiggies.eu