Sou Sou Designs

I’ve seen these ninja style shoes in movies and in fashion over the years, but when I came across Sou Sou’s Jika-Tabis I hadn’t seen anything like them. They ooze colour and texture and are fun, super cool and stylish. More importantly they make for happy feet.

What are Jika-Tabis?

Jika-Tabis were originally used in environments from building sites to rice paddy fields. Today there are even steel capped versions. In recent years, there has been a resurrection of several textile companies who used to manufacture the original Jika-Tabis, and designers are now collaborating with them to introduce a newer modern footwear.

Sou Sou’s Kyoto Store

Looking_through_window_Although Sou Sou have several stores in Japan, as I was heading to Kyoto I decided to drop into the store there. The lane way to Sou Sou is off the main walkway of Shin-kyogoku arcade, spectacular in itself – and bustling, worth putting aside a few hours for. What I wasn’t prepared for was that there were about 6 or so Sou Sou shops all specialising in either homewares, clothing, stationery or shoes.

I expected that the clothing shop would sell a range of Jika-Tabi, but was in heaven when I was told that the Jika-Tabis had a shop of their own. The beautiful shop assistant spoke english and was extremely informative and passionate about this company. It was great learning of the shoes themselves, with specific information on my size and how they should fit on my foot.

Why Sou Sou’s Jika Tabis

The Jika-Tabis are split toe, light and have an incredible rubber sole which is ridged and non slip, but it’s the colour and fabric that gets you. You are spoilt for choice.

As with the Hanpu bags, you wear them as and with what you want. Many have the surprise of a bold colour inside the shoe, so you can fold the top down if you choose to reveal these great pops of polka dots or full colour. I love wearing these and I wear them with everything. They’re so comfortable as it feels like you have no shoes on. I bought a few pairs this day along with some great Tabi socks which will be perfect in winter with them. One of the best things is that they fold into a small, light cardboard box so a few pairs fit into your suitcase easily… just saying.

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Who is Sou Sou Designs?

As I was only aware of Sou Sou Jika-Tabi right before I jumped on the plane, I had to learn more about who Sou Sou were (now seeing the great fashion and accessories they also had). The company has been around for about 15 years and is a collaboration of 3 people, 2 designers (Takeshi Wakabayashi fashion) and (Katsuji Wakisaka textile) and an architect (Hisanobu Tsujimura). I would love to be able to meet up with both Takeshi Wakabayashi and Katsuji Wakisaka when I next visit Kyoto.

Takeshi’s philosophy on his clothing and design is timeless. Watching him recently on Design Talk speaking of the Kimono and it’s place in Japanese culture, confirmed my belief that losing old ways of doing things would be a detriment to all of our everyday lives. With Katsuji, it’s no wonder in the late 1960s that he worked for Marimekko in Finland. Those bursts of colour bring a happiness factor and playfulness to the designs, and having Sou Sou products made locally in Japan allows for the tradition of the skilled craftsmen to stay alive and current.

It never seems to be the one craftsmen but almost a network of artisans who have specific roles of each process. This I found to be the case with all the products I learned about in Japan. There is a lot to be said for the makers living alongside the buyer, as in the everyday person.

Sou Sou clothing is functional and edgy and allows for individuality. No wonder they are proud their products are Made in Japan and are ‘creating modern design based on Japanese tradition’.

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