A funny thing happened when we met with Manabu and Kieko of Southern Field Industries on our recent trip to NYC. The couple was in the final stages of their trip from Japan with about 24 hours left in their first bite of the big apple. It was a frigid day, but even the snow and rain couldn't stop us from making our way over the east river to grab lunch with them at a small diner in Brooklyn.
We weren't seated with the couple for more than five minutes when I saw a look of astonishment wash over Manabu's face - he quickly grabbed his wife Kieko's arm and began whispering in Japanese, nodding over my shoulder. I glanced around to a gentlemen settling in at the bar - tucked away at his feet was a Southern Field tote bag.
Manabu and Kieko are an amazing couple - the pair craft everything from start to finish in a small workshop attached to their home in the Saitama region of Japan. Their designs are smart, the materials they use are of the highest quality and their craftsmanship borders on perfection.
I couldn't resist the temptation to tap this guy on the shoulder and introduce him to the couple that crafted his bag. He immediately rose to his feet and told us how much he loved the bag; he was just as floored to meet them as they were to see their bag in daily use.
This isn't to say that their bags aren't out there in the world, but for a couple of cottage industry craftspeople it is a rare opportunity to travel half way around the world and see your work being used and loved as intended. The whole thing felt right.
We're pleased to now offer a selection of SFI tote bags in our store. You can check them out here. Below is a selection of photos of the couple hard at work in their workshop.