Sheffield has welcomed a new luxury retailer which stocks exclusive products from Japanese makers to “champion the heritage of making.”
Authentic products at Atelier Japan, based in a 300-year-old former toolmakers’ building, include handbags crafted by a former Samurai Sword producer, hand-painted traditional fans and intricately designed jewellery.
Shoppers queued on Arundel Street as the high-end store – six years in the making – officially opened on Saturday, August 5.
The store is the brainchild of Johnny Pawlik, founder of ethical marketing company Mantra Media, and his business partner Masa Kuno. Johnny said: “We saw these small family businesses in Japan, that had been around for 300, 500, even 1,000 years, struggling. The domestic market there was shrinking because of the low birth rate; we wanted to do something about it.”
Kyoto was historically a centre of traditional arts and crafts, and Pawlick and Kuno worked with the Kyoto Prefectural Government on the project.
Pawlik added: “We told them the building where our Sheffield store is is a former toolmaker building. The whole street used to be ateliers, or what we would call workshops. They loved that heritage aspect and said Sheffield was like the UK’s Kyoto.”
Initially an Atelier Japan e-commerce platform was launched, proving popular. Last year a physical store opened in a Kyoto hotel. Now the Sheffield store is expected to be in high demand, particularly among the city’s international student population.
Most of the high-quality products on sale, from matcha tea to hand-painted ceramics, colourful coasters and artwork, are not available to buy elsewhere in the UK. Some are made using age-old methods, like the traditional indigo dyeing techniques of Tokushima that date back around 800 years.
Pawlik, who personally visited each Japanese atelier, added: “The people who attended our opening events were the first to see most of these products outside Japan. Many of the products are one of a kind. They cannot be made again because they were created from a particular clay that no longer exists, for example.
“We’ve been inundated with requests from people asking when we will open, what we have in stock and even if they could work in the shop. The Sheffield community has embraced this in an incredible way.”
Atelier Japan is located at Ikigai House, 113 Arundel Street, Sheffield city centre. The opening has also created two jobs, with recruitment open for a part-time retail assistant and part-time retail manager.