SIWA | ONAO

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The company which SIWA is a subsidiary of, Onao, is a big producer of shoji screen papers, once selling 40% of the country’s share. Their sale expanded greatly when they started selling theirshoji screen papers at the hardware store DOIT since its launch in Tokyo in 1972. The success, however, did not last for long; with economic growth and change in lifestyle, the sales of shoji papers declined. The company then started a new line of seasonal washi decorations at the turn of the century, but needed something that was more original  – something that would “change people’s perspective on papers”.

The new project started and developed really quickly in 2007, starting with a destined meeting with world-renowned designer, Naoto Fukasawa, who was visiting nearby Kofu city for a lecture. He accepted the inquiry for collaboration with Onao to produce something revolutionary with paper to support the industry of his hometown, and the project was sponsored by the prefecture. Amongst a few proposals – made with two requests from the company aiming for export and creating something that suits current lifestyle – SIWA, which already had its own presence in the prototype catalog, was selected. Five months later, SIWA won the Nikkei Design Award on the first day of Interior Design Exhibition and the rest is a great success story bringing paper’s potential as a product material to the next level.

SIWA Producing area

siwa_paper_historySIWA is located about 100km west of Tokyo, surrounded by the country’s high peaks like Mt. Fuji in the south, the Japanese Alps in the south and Mt. Yatsugatake in the north. Lining the picturesque landscape are a few streams originating from the mountains, providing abundant water to the town’s industries.

The town of Ichikawa Misato, where SIWA is located, has always been a famous paper producer; papers made here were mentioned in the document “Engishiki” written in 927. The hill situated south of the town was called “Tendaishu Hyakken”, where many Buddhist temples were located. In order to supply the monks who were practicing writing the sutra, the town developed many paper mills, which contributed to subsequent improvement of the milling skills and thus the quality of paper produced.

By 1500s, these papers became the official paper used by the region’s ruling family, Takeda family who were known for the great warrior, Takeda Shingen. Years later, the supreme quality of the papers earned them a market in the capital of the country, Edo (present day Tokyo).

After World War II, paper production in the town started to become mechanized, and the increased productivity was put into the manufacturing papers for shoji, or paper screen, which used to be regularly renewed when the screen got dirty or holes. Consequently, the town renowned for topnotch traditional papers turned into the top producer of papers for the screens to this day. Like many other childhood memories, redoing shoji papers was once a part of ordinary home chores, however, quickly lost with the rapid lifestyle change in the following economic boost.

What is SIWA?

Who would guess what SIWA’s products are made of? It is a double surprise – a pleasant one – to find out it is paper. The simple and stylish pouches and bags are the fruits of world-renowned designer, Naoto Fukazawa, who was inspired by his hometown’s traditional papers enough to transform them into “materials that suit the current fashion and lifestyle which can be made into products accentuating their warmth and familiarity.”

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The name “SIWA” is a pun on the Japanese word for ‘wrinkle’ (shiwa) and traditional paper (washi), representing the unique characteristics added to the products as they are being used and also to reverse the common ideas on the material. To push the boundaries, SIWA develops adventurous new products every season, such as paper vests and hats, to test the potential of paper as a material. Understandably, their stylish products with the charming yet unassuming material prove to be popular in Japan and around the world.

Materials

SIWA’s products are made with two types of papers: Soft Naoron and RPF Naoron, both of which were developed by the company. Soft Naoron is a mix of wood pulp and polyolefin made into paper using paper-making method similar to traditional washi making. It is soft and has the texture of a paper while its durability and water-resistant nature makes it a wonderful material for bags and pouches. Made with a similar method but with RPF (Recycled PET Fiber) instead of polyolefin is RPF Naoron, a material tougher than Soft Naoron and more durable. Both are environmentally friendly and longer you use them, the more character is added to the texture. Light and strong – holding up to 10 kg and water resistant – the unlikely features of this paper add an extra surprise value to the material.

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Sewing

One of the greatest challenges to mass producing SIWA’s product was finding a good sewing factory. Unlike normal fabric, papers do not stretch and once it is sewn, it punches holes in the paper, so no mistakes could be made. All the patterns are designed down to the millimeter, and require extensive concentration and care to sew together the materials. SIWA’s products are made possible by several experienced seamstresses; their skills are truly miraculous, operating the sewing machine to put meticulous seams at what seems like the speed of light.

Another amazing skill is how their products are designed to be sewn; the factory’s president, Mr. Toru Hasegawa, transforms the designs provided by Mr. Fukazawa into a pattern which makes the seams seem invisible. “I like challenges,” Mr. Hasegawa proudly confesses. “It took some time to sew paper, but the key is to fold it like origami when you sew and then it’s easier.” Without him and the miracle seamstresses at his factory, SIWA’s fine products would never exist.

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SIWA Products videos

SIWA (http://www.onao.co.jp/siwa/en/)

 
SIWA briefcase dark blue

SIWA briefcase

¥JPY12,400
   
SIWA tote bag S brown

SIWA tote bag size: S

¥JPY5,900
   
SIWA tote bag M brown

SIWA tote bag size: M

¥JPY7,300
 
 
SIWA bag-round pink

SIWA bag-round

¥JPY3,400
   
SIWA passport case black

SIWA passport case

¥JPY3,200
   
SIWA long wallet dark brown

SIWA long wallet

¥JPY3,600
 
 
SIWA wallet dark green

SIWA wallet

¥JPY3,600
   
SIWA business card case black

SIWA business card case

¥JPY1,600
   
SIWA pouch small dark green

SIWA pouch small

¥JPY1,700
 
 
SIWA pouch blue

SIWA pouch

¥JPY2,200
   
SIWA square pouch black size S

SIWA square pouch size: S

¥JPY3,200
   
SIWA square pouch size M blsck

SIWA square pouch size: M

¥JPY4,200
 
 
SIWA square pouch size L black

SIWA square pouch size: L

¥JPY5,200
   
SIWA cushioned case mini blue

SIWA cushioned case size: mini

¥JPY2,000
   
SIWA cushioned case S black

SIWA cushioned case size: S

¥JPY2,700
 
 
SIWA cushioned case M blue

SIWA cushioned case size: M

¥JPY3,400
   
SIWA cushioned case 33x22 blue

SIWA cushioned case size: 33x22

¥JPY3,000
   
SIWA box 9x9 brown

SIWA box size: 9x9

¥JPY1,400
 
 
SIWA box 13x13 brown

SIWA box size: 13x13

¥JPY1,600
   
SIWA box S brown

SIWA box size: S

¥JPY2,600
   
SIWA box M brown

SIWA box size: M

¥JPY3,400
 
 
SIWA box L brown

SIWA box size: L

¥JPY4,200
   
SIWA laundry box S Gray

SIWA laundry box size: S

¥JPY4,900
   
SIWA laundry box M Gray

SIWA laundry box size: M

¥JPY6,900
 
 
SIWA laundry box-oval size S Brown

SIWA laundry box-oval size: S

¥JPY4,900
   
SIWA laundry box-oval size M Brown

SIWA laundry box-oval size: M

¥JPY6,900
   
SIWA box with lid size: S

SIWA box with lid size: S

¥JPY5,800
 
 
SIWA box with lid size: M

SIWA box with lid size: M

¥JPY7,900
         
 
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