As I mentioned the other morning, my graduation gift to myself was an alpaca scarf from the Inoue Brothers, and not a moment too soon. There it is keeping me warm under the picturesque Brooklyn-Queens Expressways as the snowflakes started to fall this afternoon.
I fell in love when I saw a similar one wrapped around the neck of Tomoko Ogura, who knows a thing or two about shopping–she oversees all the buyers for the Barney’s Co-op. When I complimented its rainbow hues she quickly turned over one corner to show me this:
and told me about how the Inoue Brothers, born and raised in Denmark, now based in Copenhagen and London, combine their Japanese heritage and European design sense with the expertise of Bolivian artisans to turn out these wonderful scarves, which she snapped right up on Barney’s behalf.
I resisted for about four hours that afternoon, doing schoolwork before I finally googled the Inoue Brothers and landed on their really lovely website.
I read more about the brothers, got a closer look at the scarves, and decided I better ring Barney’s.
I still liked the grey best, which is what I had seen Tomoko wearing, but I thought the marigold, poppy red, or darker green could do nicely too. But the man at Barney’s told me they only had lavender, pink, and blue left. None would have been quite right for me. It needed to be a cozy color for everyday, and cool colors (as opposed to warms and neutrals) are just not my thing. I went back to the designers’ website, where I found an email address. I sent a message about my crush on the scarf, and asking whether there were any more available.
17 minutes after I hit “send,” on a Sunday, no less, Satoru Inoue–one of the designers, wrote back saying he would check with the stock guys, who were busy with Christmas orders, and see what he could do. Sure enough, he found me a grey one, though in a slightly different size. He sent me a message outlining the difference in measurements (a matter of several centimeters), and offered to send it at a smaller price, for the smaller size. I said, “yes, please,” and asked for some more information about his company.
The Inoue Brothers, Image from Limited Hype
He sent me their profile, and even better, a link to this interview on Limited Hype, which I thoroughly enjoyed. There are great photos of the brothers (Satoru–at least I think it’s Satoru, on the left, looks strangely similar to Rogan. A kindred soul across the pond), as well as the Bolivian knitters, and a nice outline of their design and production process. I thought this bit was a highlight:
LH: Does putting social responsibility and sustainability first hinder your growth as a brand at all?
Satoru Inoue: Both yes and no. It all depends on how you look at it and how you define value. Business is driven by efficiency and profit. If those two principles are valued in only financial means, then our methods are slow in growth. But valued in human development, quality and creativity, then our methods have been very profitable.
The day before graduation, I got a package notice from the post office. An envelope was waiting for me, with my lovely new scarf folded up inside with a hangtag that told me a little more about its production:
But as the brothers note on their website, “talk is cheap,” and they hope their work speaks for itself.
So far, so good.