As so many people tend to do, Jason and Lisa Renel went to Japan and fell in love with the country’s aesthetic. Originally travelling there to snowboard in 1998, the graphic designers became enamoured with Japanese design; they loved the craftsmanship and minimalism that’s embedded in everything from the homewares to the clothing to the architecture.
They loved it so much, they started to import Japanese homewares and apparel – including ceramics, footwear, cutlery, crockery, laptop covers, soaps and tea pots – to the often overlooked inner-west suburb of Summer Hill four months ago. This new venture, Original Editions, is attached to the Renel’s graphic design studio The Borough Design, which is why they’ve run with the term “showroom” over “store”.
“It’s a very small showroom in a renovated industrial warehouse with exposed brick, exposed timber and wooden floors,” Jason tells Broadsheet. “It’s minimal to showcase the products, with a few potted plants around. It’s not a dedicated retail space – it’s not open seven days – because we’re in the office out back and it’s part of that space.
“It’s similar to what they do in Japan,” he explains. “When you look up to the second level of buildings in Tokyo, there are so many different things happening up there, but you wouldn’t know it from the ground level.”
Although the product range is diverse, it’s tightly curated. Every item is hand-picked by Jason and Lisa, either on their travels in Japan or sourced directly from suppliers and designers they’ve met informally. What ties the products together is that they’re all made by hand in small batches in Japan.
Jason points out the Hasami porcelain, which is designed to be modular and stackable. Prices range from $10 for a small plate to $80 for a teapot. “They’re beautiful products, all handmade in small runs in Hasami, Japan,” he says. “All the porcelain-ware comes in dedicated sizes that can be stacked and used. A lid can be a coaster, or a plate can be a lid.”
Other products include a stackable range of colourful mugs; organic soap featuring ingredients such as yuzu, charcoal, green tea, red bean and sakura; laptop sleeves from Tokyo brand Udot, which are made from recycled plastic and felted wool; and the Soji collection of wooden bowls by Japanese design studio Mute, which are made using the traditional craft technique of rokuro biki (wood-turning).
Also available from Udot are slippers in a range of colours and materials, including suede, leather, enamelled leather and camel leather. “We’ve got 10 different styles,” says Jason. “You come in and choose your colour and size, and then they’re made-to-order in a small workshop in Tokyo and arrive in about two weeks.”
“Everything is handmade, and it’s also meant to be kept,” he says. “That was one of the things we initially loved about Japan. We always go on about sustainability, but we throw out a lot of what we buy. These are classic-looking, minimal and modern things that wouldn’t look out of place in any modern home.”
4/72 Carlton Crescent, Summer Hill
Mon & Tue by appointment
Wed to Fri 10am–4pm