How many design firms do you know that make their own products to sell? The number is probably not as high as you think. Yes, there have been architects who have made fashion accessories and even kitchenware before, but most firms simply do not bother. This is because the sheer cost of running a firm often leads many to concentrate on architecture or interior design rather than run the risk of spending time to design products that may or may not end up selling. CRAFITS, a comprehensive design firm in New York, has found a way around such risk by selling products created by Japanese manufacturers for consumers with a passion for Japanese style.
“Through our design projects, we had opportunities working with some interesting material manufactures in Japan,” explains Masa Kaneko, the firm’s Founder and Head Interior Designer. The IPPIN Project is just one of their most recent endeavors, giving Japanese makers of furniture and home decor an outlet to sell their products abroad.
“Their products were very high quality and looked very attractive to us, and they also intended to introduce [them] internationally, but they couldn’t find any reps who [understood] their products and interior design,” Kaneko recalls. “Thinking about our background and what we can contribute to our origin, based in [the] USA, we believe that IPPIN Project is one of the ways to [contribute] to our own culture and the next generation.”
That contribution is facilitated by the appreciation for Japanese design that has grown in the West over the last several decades. As interest in Japanese design has increased, Japan has also gained an appreciation for styles outside of their country. “Japanese culture is very much influenced by Western culture,” says Kaneko, “but they still have their own way to live with and it makes Japanese design [that much] more interesting.” What he says is true, too — at the turn of the 20th century, it was fairly easy to distinguish between different styles of design and architecture. Today, globalization has blurred the lines a little, leading to influences between some cultures in everything from food to fashion.
“The sense of beauty for Japanese people or Japanese culture itself is basically to be very minimal and modern, less decorative,” Kaneko describes. This was on full display in May 2019 at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) in New York. A repeat visitor at the event, IPPIN Project presents “Japanese Design for Fine Living” for design consultants and members of the public interested in sourcing products for their upcoming projects. There, they get a sense of the needs of the global design market. Even better, the IPPIN Project booth was the first one that made us stop at the ICFF, just after glancing the intricacy of its Kumiko Ramma Screen.
“The products we carry from Japan are not mass products,” explains Kaneko. “The fabrication is limited and only able to be made by skilled artisans.” Through IPPIN Project, CRAFITS uses their understanding of the American interior design market to act as the liaison between manufacturers in Japan and U.S. designers or clients. “There is a lot of alternation of ideas and design materials in the world, so we [hope] we can be one-of-a-kind Japanese Materials and Product Library for non-Japanese customers.”