Orobianco x Randoseru by Darrel Hunter

I have always been fascinated and impressed by Japanese culture…a history filled with adventure, overflowing with innovation and a love for art and shrouded with honour.  During a trip to Milan, to view the Orobianco factories and offices, I was presented with the opportunity of meeting with Mr. Takao Ikeda and Mr. Shoji Motobayashi, which I took to expand my knowledge of Japan.

Mr. Takao Ikeda is the president of one of the premier companies bestowed with the honour of producing the Landcell bag, which is engrained in the DNA of Japanese culture. Mr. Motobayashi runs a worldwide import-export company responsible for the majority of Japanese wholesale.

Known more commonly outside of Japan as Randoseru (which is derived from the Dutch word ransel), the iconic Landcell bag is deeply embodied within Japan’s proud history. Upon entering primary school, it is tradition that a Japanese schoolchild will proudly receive their Landcell, which due to its exceptional craftsmanship and quality, lasts throughout their entire school life.

I decided to enquire into the history behind this:

Modehunter: I am very intrigued by the history behind the origin of the Randoseru. When did this tradition begin?
Takao Ikeda:  The history of the Randoseru dates back to 1887, when Japan’s first prime minister, Itō Hirobumi, presented Emperor Taisho with a Randoseru at his entrance to primary school. This gave birth to the tradition and over the next 120 years it grew until nearly every Japanese child starting primary school had a Randoseru. This bag is very durable and made from the highest quality materials, so it lasts the child throughout their school education.
Shoji Motobayashi:  Very interestingly, the word Randoseru originates from the Dutch language, as school bags were being called ransel in Holland. In the 19th century, Japan was entering a new era, the Meiji period, which saw the Emperor system being revitalized. During the Samurai period the Shogun ruled the country but with the introduction of the Meiji era, the Emperor became the leader and also the most influential figure. Since the Emperor began carrying his bag when he started school this gave birth to the Landcell custom.

MH: How did you become aware of the Orobianco brand?
TI: Approximately three years ago, Mr. Motobayashi contacted me to enquire as to whether I had heard about the Orobianco brand. After the initial inquiry I was introduced to Giacomo-san (Orobianco President) and in turn introduced him to Landcell bags. At that point we began to discuss the exciting prospect of collaboration between Landcell and Orobianco. This year saw realisation of that project with the limited edition release of the Orobianco Landcell, which is only available in Isetan Shinjuko, Tokyo, the leading department store in Japan.

MH: The Landcell and what it represents is clearly a very important part of Japanese tradition. What factors convinced you to allow Orobianco to collaborate on such an iconic part of your history?
SM: One of the things I admire about Giacomo-san is his commitment to keep the workmanship and artisan craft within Italy. He also has a great respect for the artisan culture within Japan. I have known him for more than eight years and have seen his heartfelt philosophies on craftsmanship within his company. The Landcell, while traditional and exclusive to Japan, has been introduced to the world mainly via manga cartoons, and along with Giacomo-san’s respect for Japanese artisans, I knew it would be a good match to introduce him to Ikeda-san, whom I have also knew for some time.
At the initial introduction we had no idea that the collaboration would materialise. As with most products, when he (Giacomo), first saw the Landcell bags, he thoroughly inspected the workmanship of the bag, turning it every way possible and analysing it in detail. He was fascinated with the technique involved with producing the bag and decided it would be interesting to pursue the collaboration. This project did not originate as solely a profit-making venture; it was born out of a love for design and tradition.
TI: Only seventy-five Orobianco-Landcell bags were made, which immediately sold out.

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MH: Was it always intended to be a limited edition project?
SM: Well, Mr. Valentini and Mr. Ikeda realised it would be better this way.  This project afforded them the chance to gain a greater understanding of each other and to form a greater bond. You have to realise that what we are dealing with here involves many limitations. This piece is the result of over one hundred years of craftsmanship so almost nothing can be altered too heavily.

MH: This highlights the respect you must have for Mr. Valentini’s approach to production.
TI: Exactly, it was a perfect fit.

MH: Are there any plans to continue working with Orobianco now that you have formed this profitable relationship?
TI: Definitely, Giacomo-san spoke with and Motobaya-san and I highlighting the fact that there are great opportunities for Landcell to develop in Europe and also North America. The workmanship and artistry is similar to the traditional Italian workmanship and together we can expand Landcell to the world.

SM: One of the problems facing the Japanese society is the decreasing population of children every year. This, of course, causes a reduction in the market for Landcell, which will be quite critical within the next ten years. It is therefore imperative that we explore overseas markets to continue to thrive.

MH: Speaking of overseas markets, in your opinion, what is the reason behind Orobianco doing so well in the Asian and more specifically, Japanese market?
SM: Primarily, I believe it is because of the genuine “Made in Italy” ethos and production. Also Giacomo does not inflate his prices for the market to match other luxury brands, which have a similar quality. Japanese people understand this quality and value, which causes the brand to do very well. Additionally Japanese people commute quite a bit, especially by train, and during these journeys they require a bag, which is light, durable, and functional. All of these qualities can be found within Orobianco’s products rounded off by good design.

MH: What impact has Orobianco-Japan had on the Japanese economy and job market?
SM: Orobianco has had an extremely positive effect on the Japanese economy due to the fact they do not only provide Made in Italy products. Gicaomo has been encouraging medium and small sized enterprises to collaborate as seen here with Landcell. We have a project called “Orobianco for Japan” which incorporates Japanese production making wallets, belts, hats and many other products, which are all only made in Japan. This has helped create many opportunities, within Japan, especially for artisans involved in production. We are now able to sell Orobianco products, which are also made in Japan and in turn are able to export overseas.
What Giacomo-san is providing is not just products; it is a lifestyle concept, which is very important for the Japanese market. If you just provide a bag or an item of fashion it is just catered to part of your life. With Orobianco they provide food, wine and we are even in talks at the moment with architects. So, as you can see, it is now a lifestyle of art and quality.

The next step for us is “Lifestyle by Orobianco.”

Please note for the purpose of this interview the words Landcell and Randoseru are used interchangeably.
Images of the Orobianco x Randoseru by Giulia Colombo.

For more information visit www.orobianco.com