"We worked at the "desk", which was actually a drawing board placed on cardboard boxes. Our booth at the exhibition gathered no people around."
In 1980's, when Hasegawa joined the company, there were only 5 to 6 in-house designers. He saw Yoshida's product in the magazines, and had an aspiration to work for Yoshida. When he first visited the company, he was surprised to see the old building which was also used as a warehouse. In addition, he and the other designers had to work in the wooden annex with no air conditioner. But he began to realize that Yoshida was a sincere manufacturer dedicated to bags, with concern for the users.
At that time, only buyers from bag specialty stores would come to the exhibition, so our customers were few and limited. The business was ok, but even on a good day, the number of orders were far smaller than what we receive today.
"It was the people in the specialty stores like BEAMS and bag shops who nurtured PORTER."
5 years after Hasegawa joined the company, the new graduate Kuwahata was assigned to the design team. He said "I have never heard of Yoshida" at his job interview, but "I think I was accepted because there were many eccentric people in the design team", he says in retrospect.
Back then the most popular brand was LUGGAGE LABEL, and Kuwahata worked mostly as an assistant for designers and handled other chores. On the other hand, PORTER was supported by the people and creators in the fashion industry, including the fashion magazines, the specialty stores like BEAMS, and the bag stores. PORTER had a strong backup by fashion sensitive people.
"Working with other companies is exciting. It produces a new taste we don't have."
In 1990's, Hasegawa and Kuwahata met various people such as artists, stylists and entrepreneurs, outside their office. The circle of friends grew bigger, and led to the collaboration boom in the late 90's. "Having met all these people and the relationship I've made with them are my No.1 treasure", Hasegawa says.
"How do they do what they do? How do they create that product? This office creates the beautiful designs". They were excited to discover something new every time they worked with other companies, and were fascinated by their perspective and imagination created in different fields.
"Our skills improved dramatically accomplishing the assigments from other companies. I want to live up with their expectations and even give something extra."
"Collaboration is always an assignment", Kuwahata says. "Can you make this?" When he accepts their requests, he wants to live up to their expectations 100%, or even exceed it if possible. He conveys his wish to the craftsmen and the related companies who handle the materials, and all of them try to improve by learning from each other. They are the people who work hard for us in the back stage. He realizes they are the reason Yoshida's skills improved up to the level now.
Even in the 90's when licensing business bloomed, Yoshida continued to create the original products with the people we trusted. We appreciate their cooperation that is realized through communication until now, and also for the future.
"Meet people who have established a solid lifework, and enrich your life."
Hasegawa doesn't hesitate to go anywhere to find something that interests him. He hopes for the design team grown to have more than 10 staff, that "Anyone can find information, take action to reach a new stage". "Since everything in the world is linked to something, whatever you would find leads to your work". So he wishes for his staff to get to know people who have established a true lifework. "Your life won't be plain if you dig it much deeper".
It is the job for the designers to catch the mainstream of the times. To create durable bags with functionality, while being on the trends of the times, instead of pursuing the coolness only, the designers' flexibility is essential.
"It requires a lot of effort to continue creating without losing the trust. But we must do it."
Kuwahata kept on working full pace for 20 years, wishing to live up to the customers' expectations. As a result, he was highly acclaimed. To show his gratitude, he stays loyal to the trust he established. "I can't lie to the customers. They have such good judgment on our products". His goal is to have them purchase the current products after 50 years from now.
As a storage tool, bags have an unlimited potential to be utilized in various ways. He wants to strengthen Yoshida's trust and enhance its potential by nurturing the talents and the personalities of the young designers. He is happy to be a part of Yoshida's long history, and wishes that the company will go on for hundreds of years and more.