Timing is everything. Yuji Fukushima, co-owner of Blue in Green, a SoHo boutique that specializes in Japanese denim and casual menswear, was looking for more products to share the newly expanded space that he opened with Gordon Heffner in 2006. At the same time Kaori Matsuzaka, Executive Director of Made in Japan Project Inc., was looking for a way to expose traditional Japanese crafts to a broader customer base. Fukushima met Matsuzaka at the Made in Japan store in Tokyo, and they realized that their individual goals were perfect for a collaboration. The result is The Cover Nippon, a boutique within a boutique that had its grand opening on May 5.
Occupying the second floor of Blue in Green on Greene Street, The Cover Nippon markets high quality handmade products representing many different prefectures throughout Japan.
The items, which range from hand-dyed tenugui cloths to urushi lacquerware to ceramics, are what tourists would typically find in Japanese shops and purchase as souvenirs. Having these products from across Japan under one roof in New York increases the chances that these local goods will be discovered by an expansive audience.
“New York City is global,” says Matsuzaka. “In all the world there are more people concentrated here who would appreciate and purchase these traditional crafts. Plus, people from all around the world come here [on vacation], and they want to see things like what’s in this shop.”
Although customers will find crafts from somewhat rural areas of Japan, Matsuzaka considers what she has curated for The Cover Nippon to be “New York style” and “what customers want.”
The quality of the craftsmanship is immediately evident in the beautiful sake cups, tea caddies, and dishes. Being handmade imports, the products are sold at a higher price point, with the most expensive items being the urushi and the lighting. Among the luxury items are plenty of “simple” goods that reflect the skill and pride of the Japanese master craftsmen.
Matsuzaka says her first purpose is to bring the products from Japan to New York, but she envisions cultural workshops and events to introduce the craftsmanship in the future. Not only will The Cover Nippon’s store in New York help the local craftsmen, she thinks it will boost interest in these crafts among a younger generation of Japanese.
“Young people will become interested in learning these skills [thus carrying on the tradition] as the products become popular abroad,” says Matsuzaka.
Now is the time to wander into an Japanese jeans shop in SoHo. An entire country’s worth of crafts is waiting for you.
The Cover Nippon
Blue in Green
8 Greene Street