Kichizo Yoshida was born in 1906 in a Japanese town called Samukawa, situated south of Tokyo in the Kanagawa prefecture. At just 12 years old, Kichizo travelled to Tokyo to begin training as a bag craftsman. After the Great Kanto Earthquake – where Kichizo managed to save many of his household items by tying them to a cord which he then held on his shoulders; he decided to pursue his goal of creating functional, strong and aesthetically-pleasing products that would last a lifetime.
In 1935 at 29 years old, Kichizo established his company in Tokyo – then called Yoshida Kaban Seisakujo. In 1951 the company was reformed and renamed to become Yoshida & Co. LTD, and their head office was relocated to Higashi-Kanda, where it remains to this day. Following their company philosophy, “heart and soul into every stitch”, Yoshida & Co. established a strong customer base due to their innovative designs which were unlike any seen in Japan around this time. They even captured the attention of Empress Michiko, who often played tennis and donned a Yoshida & Co. bag before her engagement to Emperor Akihito. Kichizo was so dedicated to developing his bag manufacturing skills, he sent his son Shigeru to Italy in order to learn different bag making techniques from around the world – something many people could only dream of doing at this time.
However, Kichizo became tired with the lack of knowledge shoppers had of brands due to the boom of department stores, and in 1962 decided to develop Yoshida & Co.’s first private brand, Porter. Although this was an unusual move for a Japanese company at this time, it was necessary for the Yoshida & Co. name to be remembered and inspire loyalty within it’s customer base. The Porter brand was inspired by the many bag porters situated in hotels around the world, who’s hands will look after your bags and luggage multiple times during their lifetime.
The Porter bags (like all of Yoshida & Co.’s bags) are created by some of Japan’s finest craftsmen, each one embodying the company philosophy at every stage of manufacturing. Kichizo believed that only Japanese craftsmen had the empathy and dedication required to follow this philosophy while working. Although the bags are constructed from soft fabric, it is extremely high quality and is made up of three layers: nylon twill, polycotton and nylon taffeta. These are strong fabrics that will maintain their high quality for a lifetime. This quality can be found throughout every aspect of design, from the metal hardware specially treated to age effectively, to the carefully thought out inner pockets and compartments that are developed with modern life in mind.
Porter is the Japanese accessory that has only in recent years become accessible to the Western market, and since then has become a must-have among fashion followers. The quality of their products has been recognised around the world: in 2007 they entered their first ‘Good Design Awards’ competition, winning with two of their products. Since then they have entered and won the competition numerous times, gaining more momentum and popularity in Western culture.
Having celebrated their 80th anniversary in 2015, Yoshida & Co. continues to develop and grow to this day. The Yoshida family is still at the helm of the company, proving that age old traditions and family values can contend with modern companies and designs – and will do for years to come.
Ranging from £199 to £450, Aphrodite have a collection of Porter Yoshida & Co. products available online here, or you can shop in-store at our Sunderland based shop.