SIWA - Taking Japanese Washi to the next level

SIWA is a brand of Japanese paper products that can be used in daily life. It was developed jointly by Onao, a Japanese paper manufacturer located in Ichikawadaimon, Yamanashi Prefecture, and industsrial designer Naoto Fukasawa. The brand capitalizes on the benefits of Naoron, a type of paper for sliding doors developed by Onao: resilience, lightness, and high water resistance. Although the products in the Siwa brand are made of washi, they can be used in daily life just like leather or denim items.

The name Siwa is both a reversal of the characters in the word washi (Japanese paper), and a word meaning „crinkle“ in Japanese. As the name suggests, all products in the SIWA series are made of washi. Ichikawadaimon, a town located in Yamanashi Prefecture and home to Japanese paper maker Onao, the company behind SIWA, boasts a washi-making history spanning 1000 years. Today, it is famous as a production center for shojigami (paper for sliding doors). Not only does Onao manufacture such paper, but it also develops and produces washi accessories.

Ai Ichinose, brand producer at SIWA, was originally involved in manufacturing washi accessories. After realizing the limited sales potential of such products, however, she felt a growing aspiration to create washi products geared toward the modern lifestyle that both men and women, and she personally, would like to use. That led to her encounter with industrial designer Naoto Fukasawa, another native of Yamanashi Prefecture.

Their research led them to shojigami that is commonly used in homes as well as commercial settings. Shojigami is extremely resilient, but the drawback ist hat once it crinkles, the paper cannot be smoothed out – even with an iron.

Designer Fukasawa, however, felt the texture created by such crinkles had appeal and pushed forward with product creation. The first items to be developed was a simple bag and book cover. Today, they have become representative products of the line, but the creation team had to initially overcome a series of difficulties, including developing techniques to dye the originally white shojigami and to sew paper.

As for the most important element, the crinkles, Ichinose explains that there are good crinkles and bad crinkles. Just because something is crinkled does not mean that it is aesthetically appealing. According to her, while there is a baseline, as feelings and intuition also play a significant role it was difficult to standardize the product. Furthermore, since Fukasawa is an industrial designer, his specifications and size designations are precise to the last millimeter. That is why the finished products are so crisp and sharp, despite being handmade from paper. Some of the crinkles appear during the creation process, others in the process of using the product. Making a modern product appear vintage is what Ichinose refers to as a subtle balance.

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