Western Wear for Work & the Weekend ISATO DESIGN WORKS Ltd. IP

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Category: Apparel & textiles

ISATO DESIGN WORKS offers Western-style garments that balance style, originality and affordability

ISATO DESIGN WORKS Ltd. is a boutique fashion house that designs and produces its own complete line of women’s Western-style clothing using Japanese techniques. In just a decade it has already been picked up by more than 60 vendors across Japan, and is now looking to step out into the greater Asian region.

The Kobe-based company produces a full lineup of Western-style clothes under the isato brand, including coats, skirts, blouses, knits, pants and one-piece dresses. Distinguished by solid colors—supplemented with a clutch of stripes, spots and checks in its autumn/winter collections—isato focuses on a muted palette underscored with deeper tones such as navy, mustard and mulberry. Casually feminine, matching delicate appearance with a slightly mannish esprit, the designs are targeted at more mature women seeking both work and casual wear.

The interior of ISATO DESIGN WORKS Ltd.’s retail shop in Kobe.

Ear to the Ground

Designs from isato can be found in Kansai-area department stores and select shops nationwide, as well as major online retailers including Rakuten and Yahoo Shopping. President Ryuji Nakahata says he strives to keep prices competitive with department stores even as he produces his line domestically, using local techniques with predominantly Japanese and select European fabrics.

ISATO DESIGN WORKS also operates its own retail shop in Kobe. Opened five years ago, it helps keep Nakahata’s ear to the ground. “Hearing customers’ comments first-hand is very rewarding and valuable,” he says, explaining how this feedback has helped the company adjust its line. In fact, Nakahata’s wife designs 80 to 90 percent of the brand’s styles, while his own background lies in producing clothing patterns.

ISATO DESIGN WORKS Ltd. President Ryuji Nakahata

With originality and quality as the watchwords, Nakahata aims to develop isato into a comprehensive women’s lifestyle brand in the coming years, offering additional products such as handbags and accessories. A recent pop-up shop at Osaka’s Abeno Harukas, Japan’s tallest skyscraper, centered on a collaboration with the internationally recognized Ayazakura Spiritual Jewelry, offering a hint of things to come.

The isato brand offers a complete lineup of Western-style garments.

The Right Fit for the Asian Market

Nakahata is also looking to the greater Asian market, where the similarity in garment size makes for a relatively easy transition. “There is a sense of trust in items made in Japan, so this is an advantage for us,” Nakahata adds.

The company already started selling to a distributor in Taiwan several years ago, and Nakahata is now exploring the possibility of taking isato to other retailers and wholesalers in the region. He has applied to trademark the isato brand in Japan, which he aims to use to lay the foundation for overseas agency contracts and sales license agreements.

Looking to the future, he notes, “The way we conduct business may change, but my hope is that we would be flexible in how we respond to the market.” Flexibility and perseverance promise to serve the company well as it takes its first steps onto the global stage.

Based on interview in January 2017

The isato brand logo at the company’s retail shop in Kobe.