Text and Photographs by Stella Berkofsky
Stella Berkofsky is a photographer and consultant with a background in art direction and design. She is involved in many long-lasting photographic and film collaborations with designers, brands, and magazines. Raised between London and Los Angeles, she now lives and works in Paris.
Stella is also, we are very proud to say, a regular contributor to Hesperios Journal. Here, we are delighted to present Stella’s recent trip to Japan during which she met up with friend of Hesperios, Eatable of Many Orders.
IF IT’S GOOD FOR YOU TO EAT, IT’S GOOD FOR YOU TO WEAR.
A collaged book of photographs of spaghetti was my introduction to Eatable Of Many Orders — I wondered what wonderful creature could have created such a thing. The small, square, hardcover book was plastered with clippings of different varieties of pasta, of flour, and of preparations and tools. Several pages were dedicated to a shoe made of bread.
Autumn (the founder of Hesperios) had rushed me over to a little showroom in the Marais last fall to discover this delicious world. The leather bags, set on molds and scant of unnecessary seams, were clearly works of art; small sculptures in leather, formed as if they were ravioli and framed by wood or rope in noodle-like configurations. A carved piece of wood in the shape of a hanger became the handle for their inimitable Hanger bag, and dresses printed with abstract motifs of twisted spaghetti sat patiently on the rack waiting to be worn.
Cut to an afternoon in March, an hour from Tokyo. I arrive in Atami, a city known as an onsen retreat for busy city dwellers since the 1950s. Exiting the train station, I am met with pouring rain and a cloud of steam. A communal hot spring tub next to the bus stop houses old ladies soaking their feet while waiting for the next bus.
A short taxi ride later, I am greeted at the EOMO shop by Yoko Arai, one half of the creative force behind the brand. The shop, with its amphitheater layout, was converted from a supermarket, although no trace of its former life remains. The lower floor’s sleek, wood-paneled walls conceal retractable racks that pull out as if from nowhere. Behind the till lays part of EOMO’s atelier where Yoko and Koji’s craftspeople form leather over hand-carved molds and weave handles and casings.
The building itself, Yoko explains, was intended to be an elegant shopping center in Atami’s tourism heyday, but the owner ran out of funding. Beyond Yoko’s studio, the communal areas of the building are left wonderfully unfinished with a grand and non-functioning fountain. Upstairs is a tranquil co-working space and, next door, a sun-faded gift shop. All is unpretentious and unassuming.
Yoko and her husband Koji met in Belgium where they were studying and working in fashion and the arts. Upon returning to Japan, they started their brand together in 2007, sharing a common obsession for researching themes (hence the beloved spaghetti journal). They named the line Eatable of Many Orders, each collection inspired by the edible world, and with the sentiment “if it’s good for you to eat, it’s good for you to wear.” Their ethos is supported by their lifestyle and use of natural materials used to create their products, right down to the seaweed glue.
It is difficult to pinpoint Yoko’s demeanor. She is graceful, serious, eloquent, and funny; cool in a way that cannot be quantified. That
afternoon we drink indigo tea at the shop and talk about work and life: where she wants to take the brand; how to balance family and business; how they’re building a community around the products they make.
Through the rain, Yoko’s daughters arrive in a flurry, having forgotten at home the abacus they need for after-school activities. Just like that, we hop in the car to pick it up, driving through the volcanic mountains of Atami while the sea churns below us, our surroundings reminiscent of the Northern Californian coast, dotted with minty-green houses and sakura-colored hotels.
After calling Koji several times with no answer, Yoko decides to stop in at his workshop where he is producing the molds and handles for Eatable’s bags. More winding roads. Lush greens.
We arrive at a garage perched in the hills. Koji — in a flight suit, pro- tective goggles, and a face mask — is startled by our arrival. Covered in sawdust, he welcomes us in. Clearly he had not heard the phone ring over the whirring of the sander.
Sitting in their Parisian showroom some months before, I could only have imagined the beginnings of these bags in Koji’s mountainside workshop in rural Japan. I had not gone to Atami to write something about Eatable and although I brought my camera, I shot shy of two rolls of film. Upon leaving, I could not help but feel immense admiration for the world this couple has created. They transcend elegance and humor with the originality of their designs and, what’s more, through their processes and materials, they create responsibly. In a sea of “things,” overproduction, and overstimulation, they are able to make space for a shoe of bread.