Mokuba, Japanese Ribbons

For the Japanese, mokuba means rocking horse. But for the world’s couturiers, textile designers or fashion aficionados, Mokuba evokes high quality ribbon making. To go into the wonderful lair of this seller of coloured materials and textured colours is to intimately touch luxury and delicacy.
The website is, for want of a better word, silent. Here we travel into the fascinating world of Mokuba…
If the home of the ribbon has its centre in France, and more precisely, Saint Étienne, Mokuba is an exception in this industrialised craft. Known for its admiration of St. Étienne, the Japanese manufacturer is there welcomed as an equal. Indeed, the founder of the company, Shoichi Watanabe, when still a young man, was wowed by the ribbons of St. Étienne which he discovered in Kyoto.
Particularly sensitive to the world of textiles, this son of tsuzure ori, a master weaver of obi (the silk belt of the kimono), established his first company in 1954, at the young age of 21, which designed and sold ribbons in Tokyo. Up until the Second World War, Kyoto was the centre of ribbon and silk making; but it is in the region of Fukui that Shoichi Watanabe set up his company. Influenced by this first experience he founded Mokuba in 1967. Made up of two ideograms 木(moku) which means tree and 馬(ba) which means horse, the name of the brand along with its logo, represents a wooden toy, an homage to childhood.
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In 1985, the founder’s daughter, Keiko Watanabe, took over many areas of the company, including style and development (in particular introducing silk). Meanwhile Mokuba opened up to the world: a store opened in Toronto. Although New York opened the largest showroom in 2000, the French stage played a key role in its international fame. While Japan discovered ribbons in the 1880s and it imported looms and expertise from France, Paris only discovered Mokuba in 1990! The immediate popularity of the Japanese ribbons proves its universality.
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Over 50 000 types of ribbons and braids and 6000 laces are the living heritage of a brand that develops some 2,000 new items every year. Catalogs, sample books, displays, storefronts, the sellers… everything is perfectly designed. The success of Mokuba is based on four strong pillars: original design, manufacturing control, efficient distribution and almost inexhaustible resources.
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The Mokuba house guarantee is that of understated luxury. Its stylistic uniqueness lies in the apparent simplicity of these ribbons. On a width of 1 mm to 10 cm, a decorative pattern does not fit. And if it does, the decoration is a subtle edging or rippling shot silk. The discreet and restrained detailing, along with the treatment of unique or graded colour, is what gives it its power. It is precisely in the choice of colors and weaves that modernity emerges. The double-sided satins, waistbands, organza and velvets are a technological tour de force and the nuances of the colours associated with them lends them their poetic prowess. The laces are just as much paragons of technicality as they are poems. And on a band of 30 cm, embroidery magnifies transparencies where shades of white marry with blacks. Supplier of noble raw materials and a colour merchant, Mokuba ensures an impeccable quality of textures and guarantees the sustainability of tones. The colors are born and endure… without ever dulling.
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Ms. Watanabe thus makes available her sources of inspiration and creativity. The sophistication of this conductor leans as much on intuition and suggestion as on strong artistic direction. Her intuitive approach to the subject is a humble and controlled force of the creative act. Her idea of ​​luxury is the surpassing of expectations or, in other words, be as perfect as possible.
The design of boxes for a privileged clientele is indicative of this quest for perfection but also the genius of communication. Since the opening of the Paris boutique, Keiko Watanabe imagined a “catwalk in a box”. This small parcel is shipped worldwide to 3000 lucky customers, and this “presentation of the collection” is presented twice a year. Thus, she selects the container and contents. With a gesture that speaks volumes and a silence which explains all, she passes on to her team the art of how to knot, wrinkle, fold, plait, interlace, wrap… these strips of cloths, narrow, lightweight and ductile, dull or shiny, elastic or tight, smooth or grainy, soft or metallic…
To receive this gift is to accept some of its spiritual essence. She creates a perfect package and slips a short message into this box of deceptively delicate lattice lace cloth on sky silk georgette… The message is an invitation to select a new model among 7000 models on display at 18 of the Rue Montmartre, an invitation to awaken our creativity or simply an invitation to contemplate…