Think the world through a leather
For Atsushi Takamisawa, a founder of leather craft factory Six Coup de Foudre, his crafts are not just for a business. It relates to his lifestyle, philosophy, and his love of nature. It’s his expression, resistance, and message to the society to “think the world through a leather”.
In Japan, it's estimated that more than 450,000 wild animals, such as deer, bears, and boar, are hunted and killed for gaming or for the sake of population control. People see them as a harmful animal: ruins and destroys crops and vegetables. Deer gets hunted when they come down from the mountain for food. Bear gets killed when they come across a human.
What stroked Takamisawa, a former stylist in a fashion industry, was the fact that those killed animals are just been thrown away: the meat is rarely be eaten and no one cares about the skin. As an environmentalist, killing wild animals for the convenience of human is already something he cannot stand. But, for him, wasting them is ethically unacceptable.
So he chose to become a leather craftsman, creating quality products with the leather of the wild animals. For Takamisawa, this is the way to cherish and honor the life of the animals we kill.
Wild animal skins to elegant leather crafts
He purchases leather from special tanneries, which handle wild animal skins; there are only four such tanneries exist in Japan. Then he crafts them into high-class, elegant leather products, which are unique in design, touch, and feeling: wallets made of bear leather, bags made of deer leather, and he also utilizes bones and horns as a material for various accessories.
Unlike regular cow and pig, the leather of wild animals usually has scars and stains. This is one reason why wild animal skins are avoided. But Takamisawa finds unique beauty in it. His work is to bring out the hidden beauty to meet the modern aesthetic. It has been successful so far, now selling them in high-class boutique shops in Tokyo, Paris, and Los Angeles.
Takamisawa's works are not limited to the wild animal. He also works on cow, pig, and sheep leather as well. But his approach is just as same as handling wild animals. He hates wasting, even an inch. He uses a special sewing machine, a rather expensive one, which enables him to stitch precisely and flexible, to save a fraction of leather.
Nesting in Asakusa, Tokyo
His workshop is located in Asakusa, a well-known tourist spot in Taito, Tokyo. It’s also known as a big cluster of the leather industry. You’ll see many factories producing leather shoes, bags, and crafts in a small area. This is the place where professional buyers come from all over the country.
The City of Taito is supporting young creators and craftsmen to harness the next generation of the local manufacturing. Takamisawa was selected as a tenant of its incubation center called “Asakusa Monozukuri Kobo”, where tenants get various supports including consultation and marketing support. They are also allowed to use the tools and equipment free. Currently, nine tenants are occupying the building, striving to become an independent manufacturer in the future.
Embrace the story of a leather
Takamisawa further explained to me about his philosophy of “think the world through a leather” and the way he approaches leather manufacturing.
“I went all around the country to see where the animals live, hunted, slaughtered, and processed. I even visited abroad, Italy and Bangladesh, to learn more.
Any piece of leather has its own story. Each piece once belonged to a living animal, hunted or slaughtered by someone, tanned by a tannery, and brought to my hand through various channels. I want to embrace the story and be part of it as a designer and creator, then share it with the users so that they feel the uniqueness and beauty of it.”
I asked him about his dream in the future.
“It would be great if I had my own tannery. But my ultimate dream is to see the world killing no animal in vain.”