MIKI HOUSE Craftsmanship


25 Years of consideration for worker’s happiness together with printing and embroidering techniques.

Printing and embroidery are important factors in the creation of the lively “MIKI HOUSE Style” that customers have come to love in our children’s clothing.

An item that has been loved for 40 years or so and is one of the most recognizable styles representative of MIKI HOUSE’s printing techniques is the Back Logo Trainer. In celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the founding of MIKI HOUSE, we will be releasing a new color including a reworking of the MIKI HOUSE logo.

The large printed logo printed on the back is a perfect representation of the history of the brand. In addition to the Back Logo Trainer, we would like to focus on Yoshiko Okamura, former senior managing director of Tanaka Embroidery Co., LTD. For approximately 30 years, she commanded the processing technologies and production of printing and embroidery which uniquely express the worldview of MIKI HOUSE.

"I thought I would simply be helping out, and before I knew it I worked for such a long time."

Ms. Okamura reminisces about her time working with MIKI HOUSE with a smile. While creating for MIKI HOUSE, she was also giving shape to two very special things: superior technical abilities and a company where workers carry a sense of enjoyment and satisfaction in their work. A company such as Tanaka Embroidery.

First, let us introduce how the printing process was approached. Originally Tanaka Embroidery was contracted to complete the secondary processing from Hotline Co., LTD. who manufactured the MIKI HOUSE bags. “We had always thought we wanted to work with a brand like MIKI HOUSE someday, but Hotline encouraged us to speak directly to MIKI HOUSE regarding a deal.”

Following that, when joining in the New Year’s party with all MIKI HOUSE partners in attendance, the head of production mentioned that “when requesting very specific products, our partners haven’t been able to deliver precisely to our liking.”

With that Ms. Okamura says, “I first proposed the idea, ‘Perhaps our company can assist with these issues?’.” Nevertheless, even after Ms. Okamura’s proposal, the response was “We are still satisfied with the embroidery of the other companies.”

Despite the tough reality of the situation, Ms. Okamura continued to carry the hope of working directly with MIKI HOUSE. After a year of visiting the MIKI HOUSE head office, the day finally came when MIKI HOUSE submitted a request for work.

While emphasizing the importance of "speedy and courteous work," she said, "It was also significant that the person in charge at MIKI HOUSE and our person in charge of the project were on the same wavelength. Over the past 10 years, we have come to be able to handle very precise requests.”

In addition to the technical skills, while working with the brand, they strive to provide them with a completed embroidery that accurately represents the brand’s intended design. With the managers from each team in perfect unison with one another, and being able to deliver the intended designs, communication ran smoothly and their company was able to take on tougher challenges. And of course, Ms. Okamura’s visit to MIKI HOUSE and taking care to speak directly with the brand was a primary factor in this accomplishment.

And so, after 10 years of working with MIKI HOUSE, Ms. Okamura says, “we are fortunate to have built trust and a strong base with MIKI HOUSE.”

At the time, embroidery and printing were secondary processes completed by separate companies. Many of MIKI HOUSE’s designs feature colorful prints, appliques and embroidery used in unison.

“Originally a separate company would send us the cut pieces of the torso with the finished printing, and we would finalize the pieces with the embroidery. The print was done very well by the other company, so we let them handle it,” says Ms. Okamura. However, at that time the manager at MIKI HOUSE suggested that Tanaka Embroidery try their hand at printing. “The very first item was pajamas auto-screen printed by machine. That is how we started.”

For MIKI HOUSE, it was beneficial to have one company handle the printing and embroidery both in terms of speed and quality control. Ms. Okamura continued, “The MIKI HOUSE manager would come directly to the factory for checks, but whatcould we do if there was an issue with the print from the other company? All the trust that we built with the brand could be gone in an instant. This was always my concern.
However, the outcome was encouraging. The production manager informed us,‘Everything is OK, you have passed. Please continue creating with this quality.’”

Hand-Printing Process

Ms. Okamura came to the conclusion that in order to truly meet MIKI HOUSE’s expectations, machine printing is not enough. In short, each and every shirt needed to be hand-printed. Following this, Ms. Okamura, who polished and developed the printing techniques in cooperation with the factory workers, said, “Embroidery is difficult, but when combined with printing, it becomes much more complicated.”

Why is that?

This is partly because the designs are complex and intricate, as in the case of MIKI HOUSE products, but also because the same printing compound may not be used for printing each item due to differences in the color and processing of the underlyingfabric. For example, the print on this Back Logo Trainer is a white print done on both red and navy. However, the white print on the red does not use the same compounds as the white print on the navy.

When printing, before the skills for a beautiful andprecise print, it is important to have the experience and the know-how to find the proper chemical compound for the color and design that MIKI HOUSE seeks. It is also key to ensure that this maintains the durability that MIKI HOUSE products require. Each time, it is important to analyze the nature and colors of the fabrics and develop the printing compounds to match.

“Hand-printing is the same. When printing items that require multiple colors to be printed, we must print multiple times. Even if it may look like a single color print, depending on the color of the fabric or the effect of the design, some items require repeated layered printing.”

When layering multiple prints of the same color, in addition to proper alignment, in order to develop the proper look, delicate adjustments to pressure of the print must be made. It is truly a work of “craftsmanship.” This is nota single item but thousands of hand-printed items that must be made with the same quality. It’s difficult to imagine the difficult challenge that this presents.

For example, this t-shirt that was created for the 50thAnniversary. It is a true wonder; where embroidery may be completed in 2-3 stages, printing is finished in nearly 80 prints. It takes a great deal of strenuous work to complete one “cute and fun” t-shirt design.

Ms. Okamura showed a sense of nostalgia while discussing the printing.
“I think it was about 35 years ago. The individual in charge of the quality control inspections would wear the Logo Print Sweatshirt every day. I noticed there were cracks in the print. When I asked why that happened, they explained that in washing it everyday the fabric has no issues, but the print began to crack. Even now when discussing printing, I remember their sweatshirt. Compared to the current prints, the printing compounds have become more advanced and even when washed they will not break. At that time, I never in my wildest dreams imagined that the day would come when we would be printing the logo trainer for MIKI HOUSE.”

For a long time, Ms. Okamura worked together with the craftsman to develop the skills necessary for MIKI HOUSE products. Yet, there was another goal that she had in mind since beginning the partnership with MIKI HOUSE.

That was to create a company perfectto accept job requests from MIKI HOUSE.

“There are many different divisions at Tanaka Embroidery, each with their own important jobs. However, no matter what, the jobs in the production department where the craftsman worked were often looked down upon. I often debated what I could do to create an environment where the workers felt a sense of pride and excitement towards their work,” says Ms. Okamura. “No matter which position, each individual is required to work for a minimum of six months on embroidery to truly learn the necessary skills.”
Through these efforts the problem was solved. While some individuals are more suited for embroidery and print work, depending on the efforts of each, they will learn little by little.

“We are an embroidery company.The individuals working in the production department are not just factory workers, they are craftsmen. So, we want each and every person to first learn the skills and understand their fellow craftsman. We hope each of them can feel pride and joy in their work,” continues Ms. Okamura. In addition, the salespersons and designers can also apply appliques and similar types of work.
Through the policy that Ms. Okamura implemented an even better outcome.

During the busier times when there are many orders and the whole company must work on production to meet deadlines, part time employees or those with children cannot stay overtime to work. It’s during these times that the salespersons and designers can utilize the skills they have learned to support production.There are things that only the craftsman can do and things that everyone can do.

Ribbon appliques are applied by hand one at a time.
Fabric is applied on the back of the embroidery for comfort.

Nonetheless, how is work done outside of one’s own job evaluated?
“When you’re assisting another department, the time to focus on your own work is cut short. So, I thought that we needed a structure that would encourage individuals to want to offer their support on their own.
And so, compensation was provided for each piece that was worked on when supporting the project. We also made it standard practice to record daily work. In addition to their everyday job, the compensation for any support work was determined and we ensured it was reflected in the employee’s salary.”

By being able to see the results of their efforts, it went from feeling like support work and instead to feeling like actual work. With this system in place, employees were able to continue working. Even before the idea of “job reform” was born, Ms. Okamura was searching for a way to ensure that employees were satisfied with their work and to create an environment that was easy to work in.
“Tanaka Embroidery is supported by many different individuals. Within the company, many of the employees working on the sewing machines are women. So, we often have employees that are pregnant or raising children, going through many different life stages. We want to ensure that we work closely with every employee and are flexible in adapting to the working style that best suits their situation. We want them to feel comfortable about their job and the work they are performing,” says Ms. Okamura.

Ms. Okamura (middle) and the supporting staff of Tanaka Embroidery.

Our final question for Ms. Okamura: How do you look back on the last 25 years working together with MIKI HOUSE?

“I feel nothing but gratitude for these 25 years with MIKI HOUSE. Even though we are just a secondary processing company, MIKI HOUSE treated us like any other, with kindness and warmth in our interactions. Thanks to them, I think we were also able to improve ourselves and how we operate.
“We also worked hard to ensure that when an issue arose that we did not brush off the issue, and we consulted closely with MIKI HOUSE to ensure they are comfortable in their work with Tanaka Embroidery.
“When consulting with MIKI HOUSE, they would provide us with the perfect advice and together we were able to find the best solution. I truly feel that because of this, no matter when, thanks to the kind instructions we received, the brand could place their trust in us.”

Finally, with a laugh, Ms. Okamura added, “Since my older brother asked me to help and I joined the company, I worked for 40 years. I’ve retiredbut even now I often wonder how the employees are doing, wanting to get close to them, so I may stop in from time to time.”

Ms. Okamura's strong desire, attentive care, reliable technical skills, and reforms with the happiness of workers in mind are all vividly and warmly expressed in the prints and embroideries on MIKI HOUSE trainers and T-shirts.

The prints and embroideries born in the beautiful Gojo area of Nara, Japan with its deep history and exquisite nature breathe life into MIKI HOUSE products that brighten smiles of children around the world.

The lush mountains of Nara as seen from the Tanaka Embroidery factory.