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    Interview with Bag Makers

    There are things that can only be done by hand.

    Despite a trend toward more casual business styles, the Dulles bag remains a firmly popular choice among people who work in more conservative fields, where a serious impression of sincerity is important.
    This style of bag is also known as a “doctor’s bag,” because it was traditionally used by doctors to carry around their many instruments and medicines.

    A major feature of the Dulles bag is the ease with which its contents can be placed in and taken out of the bag. Because the opening has a frame, the mouth of the bag can be opened wide.
    To make the bag close in a way that is not too tight and not too loose, the manual work of a craftsman is essential.

    We take the thickness of the material into consideration when determining the external and internal dimensions, but when covering the aluminum frame with the leather and combining it with the other parts, slight deviations can occur.
    In the finishing process, we adjust each and every one down to the millimeter to ensure that the bag will close perfectly.

    The techniques we have accumulated are our asset.

    We once received an order from a railway company for attaché cases for the exclusive use of their train drivers and conductors.
    One condition of the order was that the bags had to weigh no more than 1.6 kg, compared to the 2 kg or more that standard bags of the same size would weigh. Considering that the contents that the bags would have to hold weighed 9 kg, this was at the very outer limit of achievability.

    We chose a light paulownia wood for the core and studied what leathers and adhesives would not tear even if they were very thin.
    We are a rarity among bag manufacturers in that we have our own woodworking section. This is one of our strengths.
    We are able to coordinate the process of realizing the customer’s requirements, budget, and delivery timeframes in a speedy fashion.

    We also sometimes receive unusual requests from advertising agencies and film production companies.
    For example, we were asked to make a trunk that could be thrown out of a second-story window multiple times without breaking, and a bag that did not exist anywhere in the world.
    Each time we have received such requests, we have managed to fulfil them through repeated trial and error.
    The techniques that we have accumulated in the course of meeting such demanding orders have become one our company’s most valuable assets.

    Exploring new frontiers with skills cultivated in the world of 3D

    99% or more of golf caddy bags are made overseas.
    The number of Japanese manufacturers continues to fall and now there is only us and three companies in Saitama Prefecture.
    If normal bags are thought of as being 2D, caddy bags occupy a world of 3D.
    They have many parts and their patterns are very complex, so it is difficult to make them profitable.

    We need a special-purpose long-armed sewing machine, which has the nickname, “Jumbo.”
    This sewing machine has no problems with thick materials and uneven joins, and is able to sew the bottom of cylindrical shapes that have high walls.
    At the moment, taking advantage of this special equipment, we have embarked on a new challenge in the area of “randoseru” (firm-sided backpacks, traditionally made of leather, used by Japanese elementary schoolchildren).

    When we create a bag under our own original brand, we want to give it a kind of nonchalant individuality, even in its simplicity.
    The material takes on great importance in this case, so, as much as possible, we try to visit the material suppliers to choose the right material ourselves.
    For leather, Hyogo Prefecture has some of Japan’s best leather production regions in Himeji and Tatsuno, which are less than two hours’ drive from here.
    By meeting the suppliers face-to-face and talking to them, we can see how passionate they are about their product.
    We are very fortunate to be able to visit the tanneries whenever we want to.

    Challenge after a Ten-Year Hiatus

    We have always wanted to make our own original products.
    Even so, for many years, we have been wholly engaged in OEM production.

    On this occasion, our point of departure was to make an original bag in a genre other than the business bag, which is the staple of many of Toyooka’s bag makers.
    After conveying to the designer our concepts of “a unisex, thin, casual bag” and “an unconventional shape,” we set about making up samples based on the designer’s rough sketches.

    However, things did not proceed as easily as we expected. For example, we wanted to make the edging of the bag an appeal point, and planned to place two different materials together and topstitch them. However, this did not produce the swelling effect that we had envisaged, so we changed to a French seam, which involves sewing the seam on the inside and turning it out. In this way, we adjusted the design little by little.

    Usually, our job is to give shape to our customers’ wishes. Sometimes, we make proposals for fine-tuning to solve problems such as strength.
    I think we have been able to take advantage of our capabilities in making such proposals that we have honed in our OEM work to make improvements to our original products.


    Toyooka Kaban