MIKI HOUSE Craftsmanship


Power to create “from Zero to One” comes from inquisitiveness and enthusiasm.
The moment of birth of antibacterial and antiviral "Pureveil" Hadagi

One day around 2008, Kurabo Industries' Susumu Katsuen was at the venue of "Innovation Japan (university trade fair)". It was because his boss, the general manager of the engineering department, told him, "For new product development, I want you to find excellent and safer materials that can be applied to our products."

The large venue was lined with booths that presented research results and new technologies created by universities nationwide with the aim of industry-academia collaboration. Younger engineers passionately talked about their best proposals to the people from the corporations.

"Find something that isn't in the world and make brand new products with it."
That was what has been said as a mission to Katsuen since he was assigned to the engineering department.

He joined the Japan’s largest spinning company as a researcher about 30 years ago. As he was from Osaka, he tried to get interview at Kurabo because he thought it would be nice to have a close workplace to his hometown.
Since joining the company, he has been conducting biomedical research in the biochemistry group. It is a research department that supports the creation of products with various functions by combining Kurabo's fibers with electronics and synthetic materials.

This technical research institute has achieved many wonderful results and created new businesses so far. Literally, it is the brain to promote the new growth of Kurabo Industries.

One of the projects that Katsuen was involved in at the institute was the development of equipment used by researchers for their research. It was a kit that checked the safety of drugs by using human cells.
"To make this kit, we needed a lot of skin models. I walked all over the country and asked for cooperation with skin models."

Eventually, the textile industry in Japan entered a major structural turning point and began to stagnate. Katsuen was transferred from the research institute to the business division. He was in his 30s then.
Now, his work style had to be changed 180 degrees. The new job position required him to find something that he couldn't find inside the company.

"Create from scratch" "Find something that doesn't exist anywhere"--- He had to find the things that cannot be found just by shaking test tubes or measuring numerical values in the laboratory.
Therefore, he walked around outside of the company, went to various academic societies, gathered information, and expanded his networking with people in various fields.

"Back in 2000s, Kurabo Industries was developing morphologically stable processing technology. I was instructed by my boss to find "something" that could deliver “safety" to customers by applying morphologically stable processing technology. That's why I was doing a "search" at the Innovation Japan venue."

“New things created from the scratch" does not always mean “sellable products."
However, "things that do not exist in the world" create "new value".

"To achieve my mission, I was going around the booth in the venue.
I was looking for something that could be combined with morphological stability processing technology in order to promote safety. From the perspective of safety, the keyword "antibacterial" was touted because it was easy for consumers to understand. So, even then, there were already various materials that claimed antibacterial function and they were introduced at the venue. However, it did not make sense to me so much.”

Does “Antibacterial” mean safety just by itself?

"At that time, I studied about the history of infectious diseases. What I learned was that the cause of all the infectious diseases of mankind, except for Yersinia pestis, were virus. Therefore, to enhance the safety, it is indispensable to be aware of viruses."

While walking around the venue of Innovation Japan, he saw Hiroshima University exhibiting "antibacterial agents in the oral cavity.” Here, the technology and knowledge cultivated in his research of kits to check the safety of chemicals have come to fruition.
"I saw the chemical formula of the antibacterial agent, and it came to my mind. I thought it worked against viruses." Katsuen consulted with Professor Futagawa of Hiroshima University, the creator of ETC®.
"When I talked to him, Professor Futagawa didn't think that it would work against viruses, but he was interested and immediately introduced me to the virology laboratory at Hiroshima University, and the experiment started.”

Antibacterial agent "Etak®", developed by Professor Futagawa, firmly adheres to the surface of the teeth so that it helps elderly people and people with disabilities who have difficulty in taking care of the oral cavity to keep their mouths hygienic. Therefore, safety is guaranteed. Kitsuen thought that the value he was aiming for could be claimed "only when he could appeal on antiviral function."

He was asked by the sales staff, “What kind of product can it be used for?” However, it took time for him to find the answer to what the sticking technology should be linked to in order to create a new product.

"I was thinking about using it for medical products. For hospital sheets, curtains, carpets, etc. I didn't have an idea for the general merchandise."
However, expectations from the business side were different.
Yasuo Okada, who has been in charge of MIKI HOUSE business account in Kurabo Industries for many years, was wondering if there was something new he could propose. At that time, he learned that antibacterial and antiviral technologies were being developed and wondered if such safe products could be used for baby products.

Okada immediately proposed to MIKI HOUSE for antibacterial and antiviral fabrics, but initially he could not get approval for any artificial processing into what a baby wears.
"100% cotton is the norm for baby underwear. Moreover, no one sells fabrics that have been processed into that cotton later. We made a proposal that was out of the common sense."

On the other hand, how was the MIKI HOUSE side that received the proposal from Okada?

Hirano of MIKI HOUSE, who was in charge at that time, said, "How do you explain the relationship with your underwear when you are infected with bacteria or viruses that come directly from your eyes, nose and mouth just because you include it in our products? There was a debate about whether customers would understand and support this idea in my team. However, as my newborn child was infected in the hospital, I learned a lot about the infection route of bacteria and viruses. Although it was very important to take measures against air infection and droplet infections, there was a growing awareness that the rate of contact infections through personal belongings was high, too.”
Especially for newborn babies, underwear and other textile products around them could happen to be in their mouth, or they may put their hands in their eyes and mouth. In addition, it is generally said that when a virus adheres to fibers, it stays there for 48 hours, and from that point of view, underwear with antibacterial and antiviral treatment has a great effect on reducing the risk of infection. As MIKI HOUSE can contribute to the peace of mind of parents who take care of babies, they will deepen their understanding of Okada's proposal.
Based upon general understanding, he finally decided to make baby underwear with antibacterial and antiviral treatment at MIKI HOUSE, but there was a big problem.
As Katsuen said, the comfort and usability for clothing was not considered.

Until now, Kurabo has provided MIKI HOUSE with soft, high-quality fabrics that are ideal for babies, but what MIKI HOUSE requested for new proposals was, above all, not only safe, secure, and excellent antibacterial and antivirus effects, but also the maintained comfort of the material that wraps the delicate skin of the baby and the fabric with a printed pattern that enhances the loveliness of the baby.

“I felt like I was going one step further and hitting a challenge again,” says Katsuen.
It took another year of technological development to realize "maintaining the texture as it is, so that the fabric does not become hard, and the effect lasts even after washing". How do you fix the antibacterial agent to the fabric? It was another big challenge.
In addition to experiments to demonstrate the antibacterial effect, we also conducted steady experiments to prove that the effect continues even after repeated washing in a household washing machine.

Finally, in 2014, "Pureveil Hadagi" was born after clearing the quality standards required by MIKI HOUSE.
The products of the Pureveil series, which started from underwear, are now a popular line of MIKI HOUSE, which sells 200,000 pieces a year.

Even if it takes a long time, the product that is really required cannot be produced only by the technical ability.
However, without technological capabilities, new things cannot be created in the world.

Katsuen and Okada have different positions as engineers and sales, but they have the same desire to bring new things to the world.
Okada says,
"I think that we can convey the true goodness to our customers only by seeing it with our own eyes and checking it with our hands. I want to provide something that meets my own standard and has never seen before. For example, a product with “sensor” of baby’s satisfaction. I believe that if such a product is created, we will be able to deliver even greater peace of mind to our customers. Of course, excellent products and products that sell are different. A product that sells is the one that customers want to use!"

In 2020, with the spread of the new coronavirus infection, antibacterial and antiviral effect became a absolutely necessary function in the world.

To create something from the scratch and deliver it to the world and to find "things that are not in the world", Katsuen participates in the academic conference even today. Okada goes to the business partner’s offices to deliver what the customers want to use as well.