Along with criteria like product design, functionality, standards, and trends, the “Made in Japan” label has become an important consideration for selecting a product. In this series, Japan’s Brand Trivia, various creators introduce innovative made-in-Japan products that align with our concept of social mindfulness. This time, we invited Alice Kazama and Masayo Manzai, the creators of eit swim, a Japanese swimwear brand offering functionality for enjoying marine sports with designs that one could incorporate into their outfits. Through swimwear, they want to share the excellence of Japanese craftsmanship and what we should preserve for us to live.
–At eit swim, you make made-in-Japan swimwear. What values and qualities do you see in Japanese products through making such swimwear?
Alice Kazama (Kazama): Partially due to covid, I now have more opportunities to rediscover the positives of basic needs, Japanese things, and different places. In terms of craftsmanship, culture, and customs, things that have been passed down from generation to generation are environmentally friendly. I realized the appeal of Japan lies in going back to the basics, or rather, the coexistence of simplicity and beauty and the distinctness of natural methods and materials. I’m often impressed by the artisanal attention to detail we encounter in our interactions with different factories. Thanks to that, I believe we have elaborate, uncompromised craftsmanship and can create products we’re 100% happy with.
Masayo Manzai (Manzai): My desire to support good-quality Japanese things has grown stronger. It might be a small thing, but I try to choose Japanese products whenever possible. Many factories are excellent at making fine, elaborate things, but they can’t continue doing it for various reasons. More than ever, I think about what we can do to preserve the good parts of Japan.
–What’s the difference between craftsmanship in Japan and abroad? What’s interesting about it?
Kazama: There’s a meticulousness to Japanese craftsmanship that makes me go, “Wow, so much was taken into account to make this.” Each region and country are different, but in comparison, I get the impression that their products are made slightly rougher. But I think that’s what makes them great.
Manzai: I feel that in terms of taste too. I’ve encountered many brands from abroad because I make swimwear, and I feel like Japanese brands show attentiveness in how their swimwear is both stylish and functional. Of course, brands from abroad are high quality and made for utility, but I feel that they prioritize the appearance a bit more. The matching quality of stylish appearances and functionality is Japanese perfection.
Made-in-Japan swimwear that connects the city and sea
We founded eit swim with the desire to wear stylish swimwear that doesn’t budge even if we were being active in the outdoors like playing marine sports. Rather than just creating swimsuits, we want to share about the natural environment and the value of Japanese craftsmanship through this medium. We hope people could go back to basics regarding their lifestyle and way of thinking. We started using uniquely Japanese techniques and traditions for our latest collection, and made indigo-dyed products. Indigo dyes are said to be the oldest Japanese method of dyeing. We visited Leki Nagahara-san of in Between Blues in Kaiyo-cho, Tokushima, where indigo dyeing is abundant, and dyed the garments ourselves. After that, we washed away the dye in the sea right in front of the studio. We could do it because indigo is a natural dye; if we used a chemical one, it would’ve contaminated the ocean. Not only is Leki Nagahara-san a master of indigo dyeing, but he’s also a knowledgeable surfer who shares the natural beauty of his region. As we listened to him talk about indigo dyes and the region’s history and culture, it became dark outside. We washed the dye away in the sea under the moonlight after sunset. It was magical, and it’s a beautiful memory.
Utensils that make life better
We’re based in Rural town near the sea right now, so we usually cook and eat at home. We’re surrounded by so much nature. There are a lot of farmers, and most of the ingredients we purchase are locally produced. We started to be more mindful about the ingredients we choose, like locally grown food and organic vegetables. With that, we also naturally started paying attention to utensils. I purchased the two plates on the right side of the photo a year ago when I went to a Bizen ware artist in Rokujizo, Nagara-machi, to try making ceramics. They have and do everything; keeping the soil in good condition, gathering firewood, and having a potter’s wheel and kiln. Only 1% of potters in Japan have these things in one place. I love the natural color of clay, which was made possible by not using a glaze, and the textures and patterns affected by the nobirigama (climbing kiln). I got the one on the left when I visited Tokushima for indigo dyeing and stopped by a studio. We came across Sue ware that we loved and bought so many together. Our home base, the food we eat, and our lifestyle have changed, but I can tell that our lives are more enriched. I want to continue enjoying the small changes in my everyday life.
A waterfall embodying the cycle of nature
Leki Nagahara-san took us to Todoroki falls in Tokushima. It’s where people worship the sacred Todoroki shrine, and entry to the waterfall basin is restricted. Because the belief in all the gods and goddesses has been passed down for generations, we find ourselves putting our hands together in prayer when we visit places like this. I clearly remember feeling that strange, uniquely Japanese sensibility. He told us a story about how the sea is the lover of the mountain on our way there. Water from the ocean evaporates to create vapor, which then forms clouds. The clouds then produce rain and form a waterfall on the mountain, which flows through the forest to a river, and then flows to the sea. It’s the cycle of nature, so if we can’t protect the mountains, we can’t protect the sea. Of course, the opposite is also true. If one thing goes wrong, everything is spoiled. That’s why humans shouldn’t do anything outside of the cycle. He spoke about the natural world, but I feel like it applies to everything. We forget about the cycle of nature and living alongside nature when we live in the city. It’s such an obvious thing, but it’s something we should never forget. We want to convey what every one of us should think about for the future through eit swim.