Q & A With Satoko Nakagawa Of Hatori

Satoko Nakagawa is the designer behind Hatori, exquisitely hand crafted laced leather bucket bags, with all details of design considered. We're trilled to have them in the shop.

Angelina: What was your very first job?

Satoko: At age 16 during summer break, I worked at a cafe in front of a busy JR Meguro station in Tokyo. I will never forget it. I got fired the third day of working there. 

My first job in NY, in 2000, was at a retail store. I was 19, and an international art student. There was a new "Stussy / Head Porter" store on Wooster street in Soho. The store is now Mansur Gavriel. I was browsing T-shirts that my friend designed with my brother, and the store owner of “UNION” asked if I needed a job. I was one of the opening staff to sell their high quality functional Nylon bags from Tokyo. I got the opportunity to write monthly journals about art and downtown street culture for a Japanese fashion magazine called "JILLE". They gave me a camera and I was always with it. Taking pictures wherever I went, like at the openings of galleries and interviewing with artists and designers. In the end, I worked at the head office of Head Porter in Tokyo for 4 years.

What is one of the first things you remember making with your hands?

I was more like a destroyer. I used scissors to cut open the stomachs of my stuffed animal's and removed their stuffing. I was even interested in what was inside a gold fish we had as a pet. My mother thought I would be a surgeon when I grew up. I’ve always drawn things, making weird figures and cups at my aunt’s ceramic studio.  

But I clearly remember knowing what I was doing when I designed and made a hanging wood framed mirror, an art class project. I drew the line on the wood plate, cutting the shape and following the line with an electronic wood saw. Then sanding it with sandpaper until it was smooth, and finishing it by brushing it with wood oil. I was 6 or 7, and I still have it. 

Roughly how many hours does it take to make a bag?

The bucket bag, for example, takes about 20 hours from start to finish. I make everything from scratch at my studio in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. I start with die cutting pieces from big vegetable tanned shoulder leather. I use 40 pieces in one row, and same in a second row. Then lace them together as one piece with flat rayon lacing.

The leathers and lacing are made from small family owned factories in Italy and Japan. The rayon lacing are meant to be used for making samurai armors. Not a shoe laces :) 

How did you form your process?

I was at the MET in November in 2015, my husband and I were walking though a temporary show of Arm and Armor. I saw Japanese Helmets and Armors from the Edo period. I was fascinated by the beauty of art and pride of artisans's craftsmanship, and I was observing the aesthetic sense of the samurais in the age of civil war. After that I was a book worm for all the kinds of books on armor and started learning the system of the patterns, finding the right materials and created the lamellar collections as my thesis.

I was a returning student at FIT, and in the end, I was honored to received 3 prizes from 3 categories by Accessories councils. I used the prize to start HATORI in 2017.

What other projects do you have in the works?

I just came back from attending the Echo Park Craft Fair sharing a booth with my sister-in-law ERMIE in LA. It was wonderful meeting and making friends in LA and they encouraged me to keep going. The next one is the West Coast Craft in San Fransisco in June and sharing a table with my friend ceramist Michiko Shimada.

I’m currently looking for a new studio and moving to a bigger space. And planing to give a workshop this summer. 

Do you have any mantras?

My mother passed away from breast cancer at 54. She was a spiritual person, and I grew up listening to many unbelievable stories and lessons from her. I wish she was around. 

I try to be positive and say positive words. Do not judge. 

Even if you don't believe something is going to happening, talk about what you are wishing for; someone might remember it, and you get the right help.

What is your favorite soup or salad?

French onion soup! There is a french cafe around the corner from our studio on Franklin street called "La Gamin". They serve a good one. And of course I am Japanese and I need miso soup daily. I love soup!

Shop Hatori here.

Thank you Satoko xx -Angelina