- Buyer's Guide
Design Heads :: master-piece Japan
Over two decades in the carry industry, master-piece has firmly cemented its reputation as one of the most iconic and well-respected bag brands to come out of Japan. Having built up a loyal fan base through products that boast superior craftsmanship, functional design and fashion-friendly aesthetics, master-piece is showing no signs of slowing down any time soon. We were stoked at the opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes perspective from the design team, who wish to stay under the radar and have answered as a collective – and hey, there’s nothing like a little mystery to add to the appeal 😉 …
Can you tell us about your design team? Who are the characters and what do they specialize in?
Currently, our design team has 5 members who are 20-30’s men and women. Each member has a role in design like bags or accessories, but it doesn’t apply always.
Are there any key insights that guide your stuff? What do you know that most others haven’t realized?
We think it’s important to design what you think you need to have now. Compared to others, our brand does not have strong restrictions in design, so we can use our creativity more freely and we think this is the strength of our brand.
What are your main channels for your creative inspiration?
We usually get inspiration from the things which we are impressed by seeing or feeling in daily life.
Who do you look to in the bag world? Who does awesome stuff (brands or designers)?
In Japan we often look to Yoshida & Co. as a pioneer of men’s bags.
What materials do you most like to work with? Are there any new materials you’re experimenting with?
We often use nylon including CORDURA®. There are many materials which we haven’t used yet, so we would like to try many kinds of those – we always want to challenge with various materials. We would like to introduce the materials which surprise users because of their function and background.
Can you tell us a little about the challenges of manufacturing in Japan?
Yes, we still manufacture in Japan at our factory, BASE OSAKA. Now, many companies use factories outside of Japan and local Japanese factories have gone bankrupt. But we still make the effort to bring up future craftsmen, we hire young staff positively. The skill of expert craftsmen and the sensitivity of the next generation work together, and we are making the products which users love and trust.
What products are you most proud of? Why? Can you tell us a little about the inspiration behind them and their development?
In the “POTENTIAL” series, we tried new things. For instance, we added three layers on very thick CORDURA® nylon which you can use for bags or we developed original metallic parts. That is our favorite. We think the balance of design and functionality shows the characteristics of master-piece.
What do you think the difference is between Japanese and Western style tastes? And do you have that in mind when designing for overseas markets?
We think many Japanese products have a good balance of design and functionality. It shows our nationality, like we want to be fashionable but we also don’t want to give up functionality. We are not conscious about overseas markets because we make what we need to have now.
How do you test your product? What do you look for when testing? How many prototypes do you go through before release?
We look at and use samples ourselves and make adjustments. We challenge the product until we are satisfied. For that, it does not matter how many times we try.
Do you have any favorite tips or habits for carrying better, either EDC or when traveling?
We think it is important to choose the bag depending on the situation: time, place, and occasion. We suggest matching your stuff to the bag’s material or size, and using your bags with love.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about design and secondly about the carry industry?
It might be not only for our field, but we always feel the importance of communication with people. We can understand each other well and make us better because of communication.
What carry product (of your own creation, or anyone else’s if you feel like being generous) do you enjoy the most? What makes it enjoyable?
Our creation or not, we always like the products which have both good quality of design and functionality.
Can we see your carry ID?
– Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GH3
– Klean Kanteen x master-piece stainless bottle
– external HDD
– RHODIA memo pad
– RAEN sunglasses
– master-piece pouch (not for sale)
What bags do you run with daily?
We change bags depending on the situation, but we usually use backpacks.
Are there any materials you used to like, but now find impractical for your creations?
We used to use tarpaulin often until a few years ago, but we haven’t used that recently.
What wouldn’t the layperson know is essential to a good carry product? We all tend to appreciate convenient pockets, for example, but is there anything that we wouldn’t notice about an excellent carry product off-hand but a master of carryology always would?
Even if a bag looks the same as others, it might have a different silhouette, different shape of parts, or way of sewing. There are things that are small details. We hope people notice those things.
What’s next for MSPC?
We will continue to create products with passion about “made in Japan” and to disseminate the quality of Japanese products. We hope master-piece will be a representative of Japanese bags.
Update: we’ve had a few queries from crew keen to get their hands on some MSPC gear. If you’re in the US or Europe, try:
Or they do accept international mail-order at: firstname.lastname@example.org.