Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Ask: Natsuko Hagiwara of Me & Arrow

I've shown Me & Arrow bags here before, and yes, I think Arrow is a stunning name, but what I'm really smitten with is this line and the process Natsuko Hagiwara uses to so beautifully craft it! Natsuko uses only vintage dead-stock fabrics in her creations. Me & Arrow uses a local, close-knit factory/designer model to turn out "limited but special and beautiful handmade goods."  And when you purchase a Me & Arrow keychain, Natsuko will be donating 50 % your funds to relief for Japan.

A giant thank you to Natsuko Hagiwara of Me & Arrow for giving us our Ask interview today!

I adore these bags (and belts, keychains, bracelets, necklaces and scarves). The details are thoughtful and fun. The fabrics are truly special and eye catching (I must give a big shout out to the Hawaiian print!) The structure is delightfully simple. And they're just plain pretty. Many of the bags would make fantastic bags for mothers (if you're like me, the traditional diaper bags aren't super appealing.) I'm just really blown away by the look of these bags. They are vintage yet new, and you can see Natsuko's passion for textiles and craftsmanship in every single piece. 

In this interview for Revolver, Natsuko had this to say about how her aesthetic has been influenced:
--"I think there are aspects of my designs that are very Japanese: the patterns and colors, and the simplicity and functionality of the bag designs. Even tough I’ve lived in the States for over a decade, my style and taste were established when I grew up in Japan. My aesthetic has not changed at all, but has been blended with Southern California music and fashion from the 60s and 70s."
 A Japanese foundation with a dash of Southern California music scene and vintage fashion, you say?  Seriously, I need a second here. You guys likely already know that my head almost exploded with utter delight when I read this description. In fact, I think we're going to have to revisit this idea by way of name list! 

Natsuko aslo keeps a lovely blog for Me & Arrow. I wouldn't expect the photos or layout to be any less lovely than they are!

As if it couldn't get any more delightful, Me & Arrow also happens to be named after a Harry Nilson song! Do you love Harry? I sure do. (Interesting tidbit: Harry and his ex-wife gave his first born son the middle name, Nine, back in the seventies. Turns out numbers as names aren't so new!)  

And... Natsuko is such a darn pleasure, you guys.  You'll see what I mean.  

So, Natsuko, I LOVE  your bags. I've loved every single collection. 
I'm also a big fan of how you work and your commitment to using recycled materials. 
Congratulations on such a beautiful line!  

Thank you. Searching for the fabrics, putting random ideas into the thought… editing designs that work, and creating something that can be used for every day……  making things are fun but it’s definitely a quite adventure. 
I am happy to know that you love M&A! 
They are my blood, sweat and tears!

Of course, I also love the name Me & Arrow.  I read on your site that it comes from the Harry Nilson song "Me and My Arrow".  I'm a fan of his. When I moved to Hawaii years ago (we no longer live there), I listened to "Everybody's Talkin'" over and over; it was my official moving-to-Hawaii-hell-yeah theme song.  
I am a huge fun of Harry Nilson. 
The album, The Point, has been on my play list for a very very long time.
My current favorite is "Think about Your Troubles;” it’s the song about a journey of teardrop. 
The words of the song is kooky and brilliant. 

Not only do I love the name of the line, but I think it really echoes the visual aesthetic of your line, and not just because there are arrow shapes in your work, but because the feel of the name really accompanies well  the simple structures and vintage fabrics. Was this at all intentional? 
What is it about the song that inspired you to name the shop after it?   

It sort came together naturally.

When I was trying to come up with the name, I knew that the name had to mean something to me, otherwise, I will get bored… 
Also I hoped it would represent what I make.
The process of finding the name was almost like trying to figure out who I am and what I like.
I love the whole story that goes on in Harry Nilsson’s The Point.  
It’s the story about the boy, Oblio, who was born without point in the head, in the village full of people with pointy head… He was outsider, except his best and only friend 'Arrow' the dog.
It’s a journey of him and Arrow, to find “the point” in the world outside of point.
It's a children’s story, so the words came easily and stuck with me. 
 “Wherever we go, everyone knows it's me and my arrow."
When I thought of the name of my line, I thought “Me & Arrow” would be perfect! 
I love the sound of it. I love the story behind it. 
I felt like I can carry the name for long time and not get sick of it.
Plus, since M&A is heavily inspired by vintage, it makes sense the name came from that era.

I'm curious about your creative process with Me & Arrow, how you chose the structures and fabrics for the bags, where your inspiration came from in getting it all started.  Can you tell us a little bit about that?

I was giving a thought of how I want to create one simple style tote that I can use everyday.
Then I thought it would be fun to search for a different vintage fabric for each season. My long time hobby/passion is thrift shopping.  It was super fun and thrilling to find a treasure in the piles and piles of old dusty fabrics in a warehouse. Plus using vintage material made sense to me. I used to only wear vintage clothes and believe why create more in the world, when we already have almost everything.
Nudie, the rodeo tailor, was another inspiration I had at the time.
Arrow detail ideas came to me when I was looking through the book of NUDIE the Rodeo Tailor.
He was this amazing, famous tailor from 50s -70s.
He designed decorative rhinestone-embroidery covered suits for old country folks like Elvis PresleyHank Williams, Gram Parsons, and Elton John.  They all wore his custom made suits!!!  The colors he uses are vibrant, busy & loud. The Motifs are like wagons, naked women, pills, etc… they are great!

Do you ever look at one of your bags and think of what the name of its owner might be? 
or what she might be like? How far do you take imagining the women wearing your creations?
I think of what the girls are like, what kind music they like, how they dress. I once met a girl who had M&A bag at the music festival in Big Sur.  It made me super happy that she like the same music. 
She had one of the Blue Pyramid tote and wore vintage pattern sweater.  Super cute! 

I don't notice any names of people from the M&A team on your website, but we would love to know the names of the craftsmen, models and staff! Are there any (first names only) which you can share with us? 
All M&A Models are my friends: Amy JoAjaBrandonChristinaCharlieElizabeth
I like using real people rather than commercial models.  I think they are prettier and more interesting.
Also, a photo shoot can be stressful, so working with friends are big plus. 
Brandon Harman, he does a most of the photos for M&A.  Sometimes, I do, too.  I tend to want messy images, but Brandon keeps me in check, so we would end up with professional quality images. 
I’m lucky to have supportive friends.
I produce my bags at a small factory, run by a Japanese guy, Kazu
We have a special relationship; they produce the bags for me with extra care and love.

Are there any names that you currently love for people, pets, or future lines and products? Any favorite names that you've heard out and about in L.A?
I am a visual heavy person and also a simple minded, so I like names that come with images. When I say those names, certain images come with.

My cat’s name is Jesus. He is super friendly cat. I had a cat named Nico, obviously inspired by Nico, of Velvet Underground.
My childhood dog’s name was “Milk” (Would that be Miruku or Chichi, Natsuko?), which came from a cartoon monkey character. 
I’m also really into the nature things as name like herbs, fruit, tree.
ThymeSageRosemary….would be cute name. Apple is cute. Willow is good.
I just met a lady who name her son name Mars; I thought it's pretty rad one.
Also my name means Summer Child in Japanese. 
I love it. (me, too!)

Thank you, Natsuko! It was so fun talking to you! I'm a huge lover of nature names (and certainly fruit names), too.  I love that you use your friends to model your work, and I'm happy that your creations are finding their way into the lives of those with whom you share meaningful experiences and passions! 

For our list today, in addition to Natsuko's beautiful contributions, I'd love to create name combinations based on her aesthetic: simple, Japanese foundation, influenced by the Southern California music scene and 60's/70's vintage fashion. Here's my stab (not all name combos will actually have Japanese names in them), and please chime in with yours!!!

Hoshi Alela
Ati June
Sequoia Cas (Suki
Eple Rin
Pilvi Sue 
Satchi Meadow 
Suzume Saffron
Liv Mandolin 
Michie Velvet 
Ivy Niko
Carole Calliope Sundew (Coco) (thanks to Nook of Names for Sundew)
Natsuko Holly
Una Sunny
Kiki Farrow
Anzu Betty Clove
Suzu Autumn Topaz
Rue Koemi
Yuna Joni Bluebell 
Lapis Ren
Mei Mary Sunbird
Yoko Bloom
Stevie Sakura 
Mili Pestle

Ryo Robin
Weaver Umeko
Simon Baez Akino
Reiko Fleet Jasper
Nao Spruce 
Kazu Ernest Pine
Wren Roger Midori
Potter Toru (thanks Jenny Gordy!)
Yori Young
Hiro Tillerman
Orchard Akira 

From today's inspirations:
Miruku (milk)
Chichi (milk)
Amy Jo

I leave you today with the song and story so special that Natsuko opted to gift it to her amazing creative endeavor. Take it away, Harry!

(images: all from Me & Arrow shop and blog, by either Natsuko Hagiwara or photographer, Brandon Harmon)

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