Say Hello to The Superior Labor

Say Hello to The Superior Labor

Renowned for their handcrafted cases, The Superior Labor has arrived at Bookbinders Design. Learn more about this cult favourite below. 
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Oh boy, now this is a brand we’re very excited to be bringing in. The Superior Labor is a Japanese lifestyle brand and a cult favourite among stationery and everyday carry enthusiasts. Their leather and canvas carry items are beloved for their supple leather and sturdy canvas construction. These are pen cases and carry bags that you will be able to treasure for years, developing beautiful and unique patinas along the way.

So, what has made The Superior Labor so beloved? Founded by husband and wife craftspeople Makoto and Yoshimi Kawai in 2007, all The Superior Labor products are made entirely by hand in a former schoolhouse located in the rural and mountainous area of Kaga-gun in Okayama Prefecture.

A phrase used by The Superior Labor team to describe their approach sums them up just about perfectly - “We take pride in craftsmanship and never skimp on time and effort.” Their meticulous attention to detail, whether that be from the construction to the quality of material used, is second to none.

The Superior Labor’s bags and carry cases are made from high quality canvas and leather that feel at once both distinctly Japanese in their design sensibilities, as well as something that may have been carried by a worker in a gaslit turn-of-the-century New York City.

Some Background

Born in 1972 in Okayama, Makoto Kawai has since childhood had a passion for working with his hands and for objects that are built to last, whether that be high quality handcrafted leather products or vintage American workwear.

In the mid-1990s, Makoto Kawai began to make trips to the United States of America on the hunt for vintage clothing. It would be one of these trips that would change the trajectory of Mr. Kawai’s life and career.

On one trip, he met a leather craftsman whose knowledge and mentorship would thrust Makoto to found NAP, a high-quality leather pet collar maker and precursor to The Superior Labor.

After first being founded in 2007, Makoto and Yoshimi first began producing their canvas and leather bags, accessories and clothes in Makoto’s home city of Okayama. Bit by bit, as the years went on, The Superior Labor’s attention to detail and craft began to gain wider and wider appreciation. Eventually, The Superior Labor started to gain international attention, most significantly by American powerhouse brand J. Crew.

Not long after this, Makoto decided to make a move. Out of the city, and into the mountains. A dream, if you ask us. Moving The Superior Labor to its current home of Nap Village, deep in the Okayama mountains, Makoto and Yoshimi were able to find the peace and focus they had longed for.

Tell Me More About This 'Nap' Village

Located in the heart of the Kibi Chuo Cho mountains is Nap Village. A former schoolhouse turned atelier, if one looks out of the windows by The Superior Labor’s workbenches, you’ll be greeted by evergreen trees and all manner of wildlife.

The Superior Labor Nap Village

Calling the Nap Village home for over a decade now, Makoto’s vision for Nap Village and The Superior Labor only continues to grow. Surrounding the schoolhouse atelier is a recently constructed guesthouse, as well as an orchard where The Superior Labor staff work every Wednesday morning and a rice field where everyone, including Makoto’s enthusiastic daughters, join in on the harvesting.

What we're bringing in

We’re very happy to bring you a humble selection of The Superior Labor products and we’re hopeful to be able to carry more in good time. We have handsome pebbled leather pen cases that look straight out of a Hitchcock movie, as well as a selection of The Superior Labor’s now iconic Engineer Totes.

The Superior Labor Pen Case

Our personal favourite from our first drop of The Superior Labor products is without a doubt the Pen Case. Available either in a soft and supple pebbled vegetable tanned leather, as well as the more durable, and sought after, Himeji Kurozan leather, these make for either a dedicated home for your previous fountain pens or for a carry-case for your writing essentials.

The inside features two leather pouches, one terminating slightly higher than the other, providing greater projection for the contents. One could perhaps protect pens on the left, whilst using the right for a small pocket notebook.

The inside of the pebbled leather varieties is an undyed veg tan leather, which will patinate slowly over time to develop a very unique patina that will be in large part dictated by what you choose to use your pen case for.

As for the Himeji Kurozan leather option, now that’s something special. Himeji Kurozan leather is a fusion of the traditional Japanese technique of tanning and lacquering. Highly resistant to friction and general wear, Himeji Kurozan leather is said to have been used for the armor of generals during the Warring States period. If you ask me, that sounds like the perfect pen case for an Akira Kurosawa marathon.

The Superior Labor Notebook Case

It really is all about the small details. Contrasting with the pen cases, The Superior Labor notebook case is made with a smooth matte finish leather. Available in black and brown dyed, as well as a natural undyed option, these covers will develop stunning patinas as they are used. Particularly the undyed leather, which with exposure to sunlight and general use will eventually age to a caramel brown.

Inside, the two leather lots to hold the covers of your notebook of choosing are extra deep, far deeper than the vast majority of notebook covers on the market. This allows your notebook a more secure hold inside the cover, avoiding the floppiness that some find frustrating in many refillable leather covers.

The Superior Labor Engineer Tote

Immediately recognisable to anyone even remotely familiar with The Superior Labor, the Engineer Tote is a design that has its roots in the vintage American workwear that was an early passion of founder Makato Kawai.

Available in a range of different sizes and colours, the Engineer Tote is a brilliant everyday carry bag made of a combination of durable wear-resistant canvas and vegetable-tanned leather. Whether you use this on the go, or as a very trendy toolkit at home, the Engineer Tote is a thoughtfully designed companion.

In closing

Thank you for spending some time to get to know our latest brand The Superior Labor, and one we are very, very excited to carry. We’re looking forward to seeing how you all use your The Superior Labor products and let us know if there are more The Superior Labor products you’d like us to try and get our mitts on. 

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