Encyclopedia of niime

niime “Discovering new things by taking lessons from the past”

2023 . 08 . 07

For four years, from 2014 to 2018, Ms Miyoko Ae worked to expand sales overseas and public relations and was even in charge of taking pictures to create brand images.
She supported the company during their developing time when they were stationed at Ueno in central Nishiwaki. She moved to the present location, ‘tamaki niiime mura’, at Nihon-heso Park.
Due to her personal circumstances, she left the company in 2018. She started her own business named ‘Coyomi’, using her professional skills, but five years later, she returned to work for ‘tamaki niime’ as an outsourced worker.

In this interview, I asked her ‘tamaki niime’ secret for expanding business overseas. How did she learn how business expanded in New York? She would tell us valuable information and essential awareness of the root ideas of the brand that she learned through the experiences.

“In 2011, when I was in Vancouver, I heard about the Great East Japan Earthquake.”

Ms Ae grew up in Nishiwaki. She worked as a kindergarten teacher for four years after she graduated from college, but she quit her job to make her dream of living abroad come true. She lived in Canada for a year through the working holiday system. In March 2011, on the other side of the Pacific Ocean from where she was, she heard that the Great earthquake had happened. It was shocking. After returning to Japan, she tried to find out what she could do for them. While living in Nishiwaki, she learned about ‘tamaki niime’ by watching the tamaki niime TV documentary ‘Life-Shapes of Dreams’. “I was impressed with Ms Tamaki, such an attractive woman working for her dreams and goals, who lives near me. “

She decided to find what she wanted to do and was challenged by many things. One day, she saw a ‘tamaki niime’ job ad in a newspaper insert flyer. Instantly, she desired to work there, and she sent her resume and had an interview.

“I had an interview with ‘tamaki niime’ staff in the back of Island kitchen in weaver & stock room where they used to be at Ueno in Nishiwaki. Mr Sakai, with sunglasses, looked like a gangster standing and smoking there. I thought, what’s with that? It was like a different reality. (laugh)”

At that time, she worked at a coffee shop as a part-time worker; because of doing dishes with alcohol disinfectant, she had eczema on her hands and body, even making her face red.

“The job ads were for wanting workers for manufacturing products. One of the staff told me that people with sensitive skin might have difficulty working here because you have to wash and work in the dust of fibres around weaver machines. But Ms Tamaki listened to this conversation while working over the partition and asked, We are making soft touch and nice texture products for customers; what do you mean that people with sensitive skin can’t work here?”

It was around the time ‘tamaki niime’ started having order mail from foreign countries. They needed workers who were able to respond in English.

“Ms Tamaki asked me if I could work on responding to inquiries from overseas and to take care of wholesales, as I began working with ‘tamaki niime’ in April 2014”.

A few months after getting into ‘tamaki niime,’ Sakai’s efforts in negotiating with Nepenthes’ New York shop let to their decision to open a pop-up store there.

“Ms Tamaki asked me to go to New York. Without knowing much about the apparel business, I flew to New York with the excitement of introducing the products of ‘tamaki niime’ overseas.” You moved on very positively.

I could do it because I didn’t know anything. But you can’t see if you don’t do it. Ms Kayano, a staff member at a department store, went with me.

The ‘tamaki niime’ products, including shawls, were exhibited and sold at ‘NEPENTHES NEW YORK’. Luckily, it was the week of the NY collection. The party was held inside the building, and I could meet many business people and designers. However, we couldn’t make any connection to the purchase of works or business.

Even though it was a highly famous shop, the number of customers was limited. While finding time in New York, Ms Ae went to some other stores she had marked before and tried PR activity for the products. One store responded to her but didn’t reach a deal.

“Just going without much knowledge, products aren’t sold if you don’t do anything. It became a good opportunity to make me think of the ways we could spread the products of ‘tamaki niime’.”

As a result, you gained a lot of understanding, right?

“It made me change my way of thinking. When people ask for products or orders, I have learned not to just respond passively, but need to try to offer more. I got that point of view from that experience.”

How do you explain the value of ‘tamaki niime’ products and develop sales? Being challenged in New York, a fashion-forward city, helped give Ms Ae direction.

“In the case of developing more new stores that don’t know ‘tamaki niime’ at all, they wouldn’t get interested in us even though we try hard to appeal to them. If their favors are different from ours, it’s not a good idea for us to beg them to make deals with us. Because we have such great products, we should deal with companies proudly so that we have a win-win relationship for both of us.”

After that, she successfully spread the sales area overseas.

In two years, they extended deals with stores that carry their products in 15 countries. The people who knew good stores introduced us through our customers, friends, or fans. That’s how she learned to expand sales areas.
Connecting with trusted people, their products spread everywhere, like naturally carrying them in running rivers.
Ms Ae felt assured that such a method is the best for ‘tamaki niime’.

In 2017, Ms Ae planned to set up pop-up stores at the stores where she built up trustful relationships. Including a selection shop in Mexico, there’s a ‘tortoise general store’ in Los Angeles that Japanese couples own to sell high-quality goods from Japan. Before going to the stores overseas, she repeatedly discussed colours with shop owners, considering the products that customers would surely like to prepare and open. Since store owners advertised it to their customers in advance, many people came successfully. For example, in ‘Tortoise’, many of their regular customers bought the shawls and even moved to buy clothes. One of my great memories of 2017 is seeing customers shopping happily there. Before that, we had only orders of shawls and accessories, but by having these pop-up stores, we could introduce products for the first time.”

“Even though the products are great, there are many products that never reach customers. Whether the products can go on the market or not depends on if the products have connections with people, or chances of selling. I feel it makes a big difference. With respect to the staff of creating products, I surely talk to them about products, but the thing I am asked for is, I feel, what kind of person I am.”

Mr Sakai asked a department store of their business partner to open a pop-up store overseas, and it became possible in Singapore. Ms Ae went to Singapore and continuously made it happen in Thailand.
“Mr Sakai started the trigger, and I received his baton, and thought what I could do. I got a referral of a Thailand store from Singapore. I emailed staff in Thailand and was told that the sales of Singapore and Thailand are completely different. The purchasing movement in Singapore is better. In Thailand, the customers who could buy the products at this price would fly to Japan if they want Japanese products. With even such circumstances, I asked them to open up together.”

Ms Ae received the essential opportunity from Mr Sakai and developed it. Her sincere attitude moved department store staff to open it in Thailand. When their staff came to Japan, they stopped by ‘tamaki niime’ and said, “Because of doing it together with Ms Ae, I wanted to do it and made a plan.”

“That experience made me sure how things work!”

“The brand of ‘tamaki niime’ is in the company; however, how it spreads, or how the customers enjoy the products, depends on each staff member and me to think and practice our ways. If not, there’s no development. That’s what I became aware of. “

That’s…very deep. The products keep spreading through connections with people. Ms Ae’s ‘passion’ for products moved many other people.

“Of course, the products have their own power, and we can use it to connect with business, but I think the essential key is in people’s relationships. The more people I meet, the more sure I am.”

Focusing on the products, she has had relationships with various people and many business experiences; Ms Ae’s unique business bloomed in creative ways.
“Depending on the stores, there are many types of people who run the stores. I wonder how passionate they are about the brand, or how they try to develop their store… I am very proud of the products of ‘tamaki niime’ made in Japan because they make the products with their spirits. I try to connect with the people who have common interests and values with ours. If I was just connected with them as stores, I would have never known them. I could know what customers wanted through having the events of department stores or pop-up stores overseas. With all those works, I also worked for public relations and I could tell my thoughts through interviews with them.”

She has been devoting herself to finding ways to spread the brilliance of ‘tamaki niime’ products through people while thinking about putting them into practice. In the following interview , I will ask more about her personality and connection with ‘tamaki niime’, and the steps taken to resume involvement with the brand after five years. I will go deeper, so please look forward to it. Original Japanese text by Seiji Koshikawa. English translation by Adam & Michiko Whipple.

Original Japanese text by Seiji Koshikawa.
English translation by Adam & Michiko Whipple.