About Soh Tokunaga.
Tell me a bit about who you are and where you come from.
My name is Soh Tokunaga, I come from Japan and now live and work in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, México. I would call myself a shoemaker, and I am starting my own workshop with a small team to make the shoes that I like, comfortable, simple and with what I consider good taste. I also make bags and accessories with leather. I am trying to follow what I believe in, not just the mainstream fashion industry.
When did your interest in creating things with your hands start?
To be honest I don’t remember, but my mother says that when we lived in Tokyo and I was 2 or 3 years old I was all the time making things with paper and scissors. I always liked to make things with my hands. When I turned 7 years old and we had just started living in the North of Japan, I saw a movie called Back to the future, and for my birthday I wanted a car like the one in the movie, I asked my dad to give me this, normally he didn’t give me toys, but that day he very easily said yes and I got excited. On my birthday I was looking forward to open the the gift, but when I saw what was inside: a carpenter case with tools and wood I was first disappointed as I didn’t see my back to the future car, but then I got so happy when I managed to make the car myself with the wood and the guidance of my dad. After this I carried on making things with wood during all my childhood.
What is your passion about making leather products?
The moment I manage to create a product that has been inside my head just as I imagined it, I feel deeply satisfied. When I make things to sell or as gifts, I always have the sensation that I don’t want to let the product go as I feel attached to them. When I am producing I feel very happy.
Why do you prefer to not just call yourself a designer?
I don’t see myself as only a designer. I have an idea that there are many designers that don’t know how to produce themselves and for me the design is the surface, every product I make comes from a function, comfort and from its technical needs. Whiles I follow this search of function, simplicity and comfort, I feel that there is where the beauty will come. So I don´t believe that I have to start with beauty, because I follow my own road which will then lead me to beauty.
Can you tell me what QQ is and what distinguishes it from other brands?
QQ produces leather products which are all comfortable and functional. I can’t make a product that lasts forever, but I can create a product that can be repaired for a long time. Each time I repair a product it will give it a new character. I would love that some products come back to me after 10 years so they can be fixed and used 10 more years.
My way of hand stitching is a technic that very few people use, as it takes too long time so it isn’t convenient economically in this efficient world, but I believe the hand stitch can make a product that is unique and that no machine can copy, it also makes it easier to repair, which is often not possible with a product made with a sawing machine.
Also my products are created with naturally tanned leather as its important to me that the body doesn’t absorb chemicals as chrome through my products, so health is also an important issue to me. Naturally tanned leather also ages with beauty.
I have always loved antique and vintage, and many of those things are not being created anymore as it takes too long to produce them. I want to be one of the people that still create handcrafted slow products which there are not many of in this world filled with mass production that is created to be thrown away after a short time, even I know all this will raise the price of what I create.
Why the name QQ?
QQ comes form a Japanese word “kukku” which means shoe in the language you would use when talking to a baby or a child, it was the first word of my son.
Can you describe the place where you live and work now?
Its southern Mexico in San Cristóbal de las Casas, a small city surrounded by big mountains. There is a strong presence of indigenous cultures and also with an international community with many foreigners, including Mexicans from other states. I live in a place with a big garden where I can breath fresh air and grow vegetables. A few steps from my house is my workshop where I can work whiles always being close to my family. There is no other place that could be more ideal for me to live and work. I would like to create a connection between my workshop and costumers in other places in the world.
Is there a way your work is shaped or inspired by being brought up in Japan and living all you adult life in Chiapas, Mexico?
My way of creating is always looking for a better way. For every product, even if I use the same pattern, I try to make it better than the previous time I made it, this doesn’t mean better than other brands, but better comparing with myself, as I want my clients to receive the best I can give. This is a very Japanese way of thinking.
When I came to Mexico I was fascinated by the way that if something doesn’t exist here, you just create it yourself, I identified a lot with this mentality.
info (at) koboqq.com
Products available at:
107 Thompson Street
New York, NY 10012
212 431 1733 t
Photos: Jeoffrey GUILLEMARD