We conducted an interview with one of our artists, "Studio Haru", who creates Japanese-inspired stationery, apparel, and gift items. She also participated in our Japanese Maker's Market pop-up event on July 9, 2023.
We interviewed ‘Studio Haru,’ who is based in NY artist and she explained her brand and herself to us. She also talked about her experience at our pop-up event on July 9, 2023.You can check the details about the event she attended here！
About Studio Haru
I don’t like showing my face in pictures generally because I am an extremely introverted and shy person, and thinking about it even more, it’s also because I don’t necessarily want to be recognized by the way I look/appear but instead I want to be recognized by my work. I am not looking for fame, that isn’t my cup of tea. All I want to achieve is to put a smile on people’s faces with our products.
Studio Haru’s website
Q/ Your brand deals with a wide range of items including clothing, stationery, accessories, and glassware. First of all, tell us your background story behind the brand name "Studio Haru.
I have worked in the fashion industry for a long time, and the experience made me feel that there can be constraints in the industry that limit an artist’s creativity. I love to freely craft new designs and products based on the inspirations in my head through the “try-and-see” process. But, there is an atmosphere in the industry where rough ideas and the process are not welcomed. I wanted to launch my own brand and give shape to my inspiration without any limitations.
The brand name Studio Haru comes from both my ability to speak Japanese and my favorite season, spring (“haru” in Japanese). However, the brand does not necessarily reflect the image of spring. For instance, Studio Haru’s brand colors are dark blue and earthy orange, instead of bright colors such as pink and yellow which are usually associated with spring. This is also because we value inspiration. We sell various items crafted through our own inspirations, not based on existing frameworks.
Studio Ghibli movies and Japanese food have helped foster my interest in Japanese culture since childhood. I have both Latin American and Chinese heritage and speak five languages: English, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and Spanish. I often attempt to include the essence of some or all of these five cultures in my work because I love all of them! Japanese culture, in particular, symbolizes the warmth of the Japanese community. I believe Japanese culture welcomes and accepts other cultures’ collaboration. As an artist with no background in Japan, I sometimes get worried that my works might “invade” Japanese culture. However, every time I participate in an event celebrating Japanese culture, I can feel that my products are warmly welcomed and my fear is groundless.
Q/ How did you come to work as an artist in New York?
My grandmother and mother have had significant influences on my career as an artist. During my childhood, I used to watch my seamstress grandmother sewing and my mother making handmade clothes for my siblings and me. These experiences made me interested in creative work. My father, who is an entrepreneur, also inspired me to explore the idea of launching my own brand. Since I was a child, I have enjoyed crafting various handmade products, but making fabric products and outfits is particularly special; it allows me to feel connected to my grandmother and appreciate her. Thus, those products have a special presence in Studio Haru.
Furthermore, after I started working in the fashion industry, I was able to combine my creative and fashion sides together. The reason why Studio Haru sells both creative items and fashionable clothing is because of this personal growth. Today, I am inspired by various things such as children playing in a local park in New York, dreams that I have at night, movies, music, food, etc. I write down my rough ideas in my journal every day and gradually turn them into designs and products.
Q/ How did you come across “Japanese Artist Pop-up Shop”? What was good about joining the event, and what do you find appealing from an artist’s perspective?
I founded Studio Haru in 2019, but then the pandemic hit us. As a result, we were only able to sell items online for a long time. Last year, we were finally able to set up a physical booth at events and markets. Since then, we have proactively looked for events where we could participate as a seller, but at the same time, we have carefully chosen events based on the location and the participants’ demographics.
Studio Haru’s core customers are young people in their 20s and 30s, who are interested in Japanese and Asian cultures, as well as students who regularly use stationery. There are also many customers who prefer simple outfits. Thus, an ideal event for Studio Haru would be an indoor venue in the New York area, where there are many young people and heavy pedestrian traffic on weekends. Given these points, the Japanese Artist Pop-up Shop was an ideal event for us.
In fact, participating in the event was a huge success. Many people living in New York stopped by our booth and looked at our products. I was also able to receive new inspiration from the works of other artists. In addition to the location and the participants’ demographics at an event, I believe close distance with customers is also a success factor. At the Japanese Artist Pop-up Shop, the indoor setting allowed me to talk to many customers. This also makes me believe that joining the event was a success for us.
Q/ Even though Studio Haru was founded four years ago, the brand has successfully developed many items and sells them domestically and internationally. What is the secret behind the success?
I am grateful to my husband, family, friends, and others who value my inspiration and support our brand. Currently, my husband and I manage Studio Haru. Due to the large number of items we sell, it can be very challenging for the two of us to oversee all of the production processes, event participation, and online transactions. However, my husband always supports me with the belief that “If you have an idea, you should try it!”
Also, my father shares a lot of business know-how with me. His advice backed the successful launch of Studio Haru. During the pandemic, we also asked for help from our friends and their friends to quickly set up our website and start selling items online. We often take photos of the items ourselves to post on the website, but if we need professional support, we ask our friends to introduce us to potential candidates.
With the support of various people, Studio Haru has been able to boost its popularity and trust as a brand. I am very grateful to those who have supported us. It is because of all of you that we have been able to come this far through our try-and-see process.
Q/ What is your outlook for the future?
Our short-term goal is to open a physical store. As for its location, we would like it to be in a lively place, like the East Village in Manhattan, with many young people and students. I opened a pop-up store in the East Village area in April 2023 and it made a good impression. It solidified the image of our future store.
In addition, we would like to expand our recently launched sub-brand “Grumpy Shiba,” which is embodied by a Shiba Inu character, and “Haru Penpal,” a project to match people who are interested in having pen pals. Grumpy Shiba is a characterization of my favorite dog breed, the Shiba Inu, and is a new initiative for Studio Haru. Although e-mails, online chats, and texts have become the mainstream methods of communication, Haru Penpal is looking for participants in the hope of facilitating cultural exchanges through warm, handwritten letters.
We don’t have any particular long-term goals as we are expanding the brand based on my inspiration. We plan to focus on opening our physical store in the near future. After that, I will keep working to get more people to know Studio Haru through further try-and-see process.