MIKI HOUSE Craftsmanship


A fabric to be proud of: the best towel, made with tenacity and craftsmanship

MIKI HOUSE boasts a variety of items that have all been loved throughout the years.
Our sweatshirt is one of them. Many of you may know our signature sweatshirt with the large logo print on the back. Similarly, many people love MIKI HOUSE's towels.

Cutting and sewing are not the only things that make a great product. The quality of the raw materials, thread and fabric are also critical factors to make comfortable and high-usability products.

In this article, let us introduce the story of a "spinning man" who has been working on thread and fabric for over 40 years. He created the French Terry fabric that is the fabric of the MIKI HOUSE sweatshirt, and American Sea Island Cotton, the “dream cotton” used only for the best towels.

The name of the spinning man is Masatoshi Kawakami.
Forty years ago, in 1981, he graduated from Shinshu University and joined Kondo Cotton Spinning Co., Ltd.

For Kawakami, who had wanted to become a craftsman since he was a college student, the spinning company was his first choice. With his hopes coming true, Kawakami continued to devote himself to spinning work at the technical site.

"I was very happy to join Kondo Cotton Spinning Co., Ltd. I just wanted to hone my skills. That's why I enjoyed my work. Actually, at that time, "Sea Island Cotton" was still a lofty dream for those of us who worked in spinning.” It was still a long time before Kawakami began to work with that dream cotton.

In 2006, 25 years after joining the company, Kawakami was in Qingdao, China, as the factory manager. Kondo Cotton Spinning Co., Ltd. had been involved in MIKI HOUSE products on an OEM basis since 2004. However, in order to achieve MIKI HOUSE quality at the factory in China, it was still necessary to improve its technical capabilities. So, he was assigned as a technical instructor.

"Mr. Hirano of MIKI HOUSE was in charge at that time. I remember that it was a very tough period for me. To be honest, it was difficult to carry out his instructions. For example, MIKI HOUSE products are famous for their vivid and bright colors. How do I reproduce those colors as instructed? Also, since MIKI HOUSE products were often reproduced with the same fabric each year, it was no good if the color dyed this year and the color dyed last year were different. Other companies could tolerate it if the colors of the fabric were slightly different every year, but MIKI HOUSE said that the allowable range was zero. " Kawakami, who was asked to make products with zero tolerance, says he had a lot of trouble with "color control" at the Qingdao factory.

The Chinese staff were all serious and hard workers, but their technical capabilities were still developing. Water is indispensable for dyeing, but there were differences in water quality between Japan and China, which had a subtle effect on the finish. There was also the language barrier and cultural differences. The response from MIKI HOUSE was “No Good” over and over again. Each time, the staff members at the site were disappointed ... The repetition. “How can I improve my technical skills while protecting my staff’s feelings?” It wasn't just once or twice that he thought his heart was about to break.

It was not just about color control. For example, French Terry used for sweatshirts.
Normally you cannot see the inside, so it is okay if only the front of the fabric looks good, but for MIKI HOUSE, there were also instructions for the loops on the back.
"The pile on the back should be neatly arranged in a beautiful scale-like pattern that does not become linty or lumpy, and the loops should stand softly to achieve fullness and softness that appropriately contains ‘dead air’¹. This is what I was instructed, but I thought it would be impossible to achieve because cotton usually has fluff."

Therefore, Kawakami sought to improve the spinning process and decided to change the method of making yarn. However, it was easier said than done. No matter how many times he tried, he could not get a green light from MIKI HOUSE.
At the time, Kawakami felt like throwing it all away.
"I will not go anywhere if I continue this way..." It was a very difficult time for the staff on site as well.

Therefore, he asked Hirano to acknowledge points of improvement, instead of just pointing out what was not good.

He continued to encourage his staff, saying "Just a little more, a little more, we are getting closer to our goal," until all the staff began to believe "I want to make excellent products!" and "I want to achieve MIKI HOUSE quality!"
Things improved more and more until finally, the French Terry with "neatly arranged pile and loops that stand" was born.

"Although I had a hard time, the French Terry fabric that I improved together with the staff members became the property of Kondo Cotton Spinning, and I am very proud of it."

By continuing to talk to the team about Japanese quality and MIKI HOUSE quality, and instructing them without giving up, the quality of manufacturing at the Qingdao Factory vastly improved.
It is not easy to create new products just as an extension of the improvements that have been made so far. If you are involved in manufacturing, you may have a desire to create something that cannot be found anywhere else with your own hands.

The same was true for Kawakami. When he started working on making towels with Sea Island Cotton, which he had dreamed of since joining the company, Kawakami adopted "American Sea Island Cotton," the best raw material for towels among Sea Island Cotton.

Barbadense seeds migrated from the Caribbean coast to the Sea Island region of the southeastern United States, where they were cultivated and named "Sea Island Cotton." It returned to the Caribbean and became the West Indian Sea Island Cotton (Caribbean Sea Island Cotton).
Cultivation was abandoned due to pest damage in the 1920s, but now, 100 years later, it has been revived with the enthusiasm of growers and engineers in El Paso, Texas, USA, and its ultra-long fiber cotton is loved all over the world.

American Sea Island cotton has thicker and fuller cotton fibers than those grown on the Caribbean coast. Therefore, it is possible to make the thread airier, and to achieve the water absorption and voluminous feeling required for towels.

After returning to Japan, Kawakami started developing new towels with Imabari Towel maker Tanaka Sangyo², who wanted to develop the best towels for MIKI HOUSE.

However, like Kawakami, Tanaka, the president of Tanaka Sangyo, was not quite satisfied. Tanaka was also stubborn. So, Kawakami asked, "What kind of towels does Mr. Tanaka want to make for MIKI HOUSE?" When the project started, they said to each other, "Let's use American Sea Island Cotton as the raw material and make it with special standard yarn!"

For Kawakami, "Sea Island Cotton" has been a longing since he joined the company.
Maximizing the excellence of American Sea Island Cotton, he wanted to create a towel that has unprecedented usability, touch, water absorption, and water retention.

Water absorption, water retention, touch, volume of towels that meet MIKI HOUSE’s standard of quality... What is the best towel? What is the best spinning method, how many twists, how soft, how much fluff?
"I asked Mr. Tanaka to test the products many times to see what kind of thread should be made and how to weave it."

As a result, the “American Sea Island Cotton” towel was born; a fluffy and voluminous towel with a silky luster and softness that is incomparable with other cotton towels. Moreover, it was surprising that the fluffy texture withstood repeated washing.

When it was first unveiled as a product in 2019, everyone praised its texture and artistic finish. Kawakami now fosters the younger generations at the factory to prepare them for the next 100 years.
At the factory located at the foot of the Kurobe Dam in Omachi City, Nagano Prefecture, he is devising ways to lift the mindset of workers while bringing passion and manufacturing techniques to young people.

For example, a display is set at the entrance of the factory to show what kind of product is made from each thread. Although it is difficult to think of something with the thread alone, it is important to always imagine the final product, like towels and clothes, when developing and manufacturing the thread.
"It is not Miyuki Nakajima's ‘What This Thread Will Be,’ but I want them to know what our work in making threads at the factory is connected to," says Kawakami.

In addition, a cotton field is located right next to the factory building to actually grow cotton.
"Each person learns how cotton grows and how pests can attach to them and eat important leaves if they are not taken care of. They experience firsthand the hardships of growing them. I think those activities develop a staff member as a professional.
By experiencing cotton making, we want them to understand the position of the spinning mill and to know the hardships of cotton farmers, so that they can make yarn with love.”

Kawakami continues. "For example, when weaving a towel using 30,000 threads, if even one thread is useless or has cotton dust, they cannot make a quality product. Therefore, in order to produce the required high-quality yarn, they should arrange their tools and personal belongings in a straight and horizontal manner daily, and dust their work clothes properly. I hope that they will understand the importance of paying attention to the details through a neat working style.”

Finally, Kawakami, who has now been a manufacturing craftsman for 40 years, says:

“MIKI HOUSE is a demanding and even annoying company for a technician, and sometimes we wonder, “do we really have to do this far?” However, thanks to them, I grew up. I really want people all over the world to enjoy the quality of MIKI HOUSE. I think that all the products, including the French Terry sweatshirts and American Sea Island Cotton towels that I made with all my heart, are of the quality of MIKI HOUSE, and I am proud of them. " Back logo sweatshirts and Sea Island Cotton towels have returned to commemorate MIKI HOUSE’s 50th anniversary. Kawakami's craftsman spirit leads to the smiles of children and their families around the world.
(※1)Dead air: air trapped within thread that helps with heat retention
(※2)See MIKI HOUSE Craftsmanship Vol. 2