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Provenance: Porter Yoshida

Rob is something of a Japanophile (a shinnichi if you will) and Porter-Yoshida represents all that he holds dearest about Japanese heritage, design and production. Here’s the inside track on our latest import.

Shop Porter Yoshida ►

Old hotel porters' tags which served as inspiration for the brand.

The Proposition

Porter-Yoshida, established in 1962, is the main brand of Yoshida & Co. The name ‘porter’ references the hotel porters who carried bags and the early branding made playful use of the inspiration. Today Porter continues to make luggage: the Tanker series crafted from an extremely durable nylon, inspired by the fabric used in US Airforce MA-1 jackets and lined with distinctive bright orange nylon taffeta; the 2Way Flex is a packable series made from nylon ripstop. Each design is perfectly imagined, providing the ideal capacity for its stated purpose.

Someone sewing the iconic orange Porter lining.

The Philosophy

Kichizo Yoshida founded Yoshida & Co in 1935, with a solemn commitment to Japanese manufacture. His philosophy of ‘Heart and Soul in every Stitch’, describing the company’s dedication to excellence at every stage of the production process and its support of individual makers, has now become the corporate motto. Kichizo Yoshida was himself a craftsman and the motto expresses his belief that the heart of the maker should be present in every stitch, creating not just high quality work but imbuing the finished article with soul. Where other brands may have sought cheaper production overseas or built monolithic factories to serve demand, Yoshida & Co has remained true to its founder’s original intentions and still works with over 80 individual factories and studios producing bags in collaboration with them.

A portrait of Kichizo Yoshida.

The History

Kichizo Yoshida began his training as a bag craftsman in Tokyo in 1918. The Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923, which devastated the city, proved to be something of a turning point for the young maker. In the rush to vacate his apartment he grabbed his tools and most significant belongings and tied them together with a rope for ease of carrying, leading him to coin another phrase which still rings true at Yoshida & Co: ‘A bag should first of all be a tool to carry goods’.

A range of colours of Porter Yoshida bag labels.

By 1935 Yoshida had established his accessories business Yoshida Kaban Seisakujo, which was later renamed Yoshida & Co. In 1953 the company had its first great success with the Elegant Bag. This innovative bag featured an adjustable zippered-gusset that altered the width of the bag, making it ideal for the constraints of space in modern Tokyo.

 

The original Tanker bag.

Further innovations followed. With the launch of Porter in 1962, Kichizo Yoshida was at the vanguard of developing an aspirational brand. Retailers in Japan (both department stores and smaller specialist stores) had historically dominated the hierarchy in terms of brand loyalty (as a retailer, I have to say I like the sound of that!) but with Porter, Yoshida moved the customer focus to the manufacturer. The Tanker series was launched in 1984.

 

Yoshida died in 1994 but the company continues his legacy. Everything is still stitched with heart and soul.

 

A portrait of Tash Aw.

The Fan

We can’t really put it better than this: a homage to Porter Yoshida, from the novelist and essayist, Tash Aw, writing in Granta:


‘Arguably the most beautiful object I own – since I’m someone who believes that beauty resides in usability – is a black nylon ‘Porter’ rucksack made by Yoshida & Co., which I use almost daily. It accompanies me to the library, the swimming pool and supermarket, travels with me on long-distance flights, and has survived two treks in Nepal, where – stuffed with clothes – it even served as a pillow for a few nights. There’s nothing remarkable about the rucksack at first glance, but people who travel a lot will notice certain things about it: its ideal size, not too big or small (thirty litres, to be precise); the incredibly light but durable fabric from which it is made; the way its various pockets provide ample storage without upsetting the simplicity of its aesthetic. I can travel quickly and smoothly with it, slip through crowds without drawing attention to myself.’

The Product

Super versatile, practical and stylish: choosing a Porter Yoshida bag can be tough when they are all so great! Some of our favourite styles are shown below, or click the link for all our available styles.

 

Shop All Porter Yoshida ►

Flex 2 Way Tote Bag

This bag has been made from a nylon ripstop fabric originally used in military parachutes for to its lightweight yet durable nature. Designed with a purposely flat design so that it can be packed into its interior pouch when not in use, there is nothing this bag can't do!

Tanker Shoulder Bag

Keep all your daily essentials in one easy place with this compact but spacious shoulder bag. The utilitarian design was originally modelled on military bomber jackets.

Force Shoulder Pouch

Crafted from industrial grade 210 denier nylon, it is lightweight and hard wearing with a utilitarian vibe, thanks to the military gear influences. You'll never leave home without it.

Tanker 2 Way Boston Bag

Crafted from glossy black nylon and lined in rescue-orange shell, drawing inspiration from the US Air Force's 'MA-1' jacket, it is lightly padded to protect its contents: the perfect travel companion.