TSL (The Superior Labor) – Thinking and Creating

MAKE  •  [publish-year]

The Superior Labor

June 2019, Pauline took her annual trip to L.A., as always, with the plan to visit Baum-kuchen, a shop and studio very similar to our studio and market. Baum-kuchen’s lifestyle brand is an integration of German Bauhaus and Japanese wabi-sabi ethos, brought together harmoniously in Los Angeles, and reflective of the owners’ Wakako and Fido’s backgrounds. The products they create and curate online and in their shop are beautiful, expressive, and very functional. They were one of the first retailers to introduce us to the TSL brand, and one of the first in North America to bring in their product.

The Story of TSL

Broad cuts, durable textiles, and vibrant tones. Each item developed by The Superior Labor is the culmination of engaging one’s imagination within the freedom of the open landscape, and the result of the hands and the histories of their makers.

A special collaborative workshop between TSL and Baum-kuchen was being held for those who wanted to experience and participate first-hand in the craft and process of making with TSL. Naturally, Pauline was in attendance. Raw canvas items of all shapes and sizes, already prepared to be customized by participants were organized and presented throughout the shop. Custom-made stamps, patches, a plethora of brass fittings, and a rainbow of paints were at finger’s reach to enlighten the creative process of making alongside the owners of TSL.

The Superior Labor brand and its prefecture reflect the owners, Makoto-san’s and Yoshimi-san’s growing understanding of the need to work and live within an open, unencumbered environment to fully express one’s self. Their compound is located 50 km from Okayama – just a 20-minute train ride away. Their workshop inhabits a previously active primary school that was built in 1949 and closed in the 1990’s. Always seeking freedom in their working environment, Nap Village – the name of the prefecture – is purposefully sited on the mountainside, surrounded by forest. Old cherry blossoms, maple trees, and ginkgo trees remain and thrive on the grounds, carving a space for employees and residents to rest, take their lunch, and socialize. The owners’ home is also sited within the compound where they live with their family (a dog and two children), while classroom spaces have been transformed into a leather atelier and office. The TSL retail shop in Nap Village offers a dynamic space that features standard products, new items, and limited-edition garments, with the option to order custom-made pieces on site. Unique experiences are always expected via workshops to help customers and visitors get a closer look into how the products are crafted. The couple also spends significant time at schools guiding workshops and sharing their love of thinking and making without boundaries. In this case, with children – which they attest – is paramount in its capacity to continuously inspire new ideas.

Combining experience and knowledge in leather and canvas material, in addition to a background in car mechanics, the work-wear inspired pieces created by TSL express a creative understanding of combining high-quality materials through attentiveness to the material’s inherent qualities. Original brass fittings are gently tapped with a wooden mallet by hand for dimension and presence, then tacked onto each piece. The application of paint not only adds colour but functionality, providing waterproof durability – ultimately giving purpose to this aesthetic treatment. By way of the machines they use every day, there is clear know-how and craft, from a treadle sewing machine for leather items for ease of rotation and beautiful stitching, to the use of other heavy-duty sewing machines that work to combine various materials like leather, cotton, and nylon.

Creating durable pieces that become more beautiful with time is their expertise – pieces that soften and weather. Fine leather notebook carriers, for example, the ones we use and love, are keepers and organizers of thoughts that we can sense will endure and grow beautiful patina. Expect a life of positive moments and perhaps a change in organizational habits with these products. We know you will covet them as much as we do.