Secure the Bag: Porter Yoshida & Co.
With a long and storied history spanning close to a century, there is a lot to unpack when it comes to Porter Yoshida & Co. We explore how an unassuming Japanese brand outgrew its humble origins to become fashion's favourite luggage label.
A practised craftsman from the tender age of 12, brand founder Kichizo Yoshida accrued a wealth of knowledge and hands-on experience making bags in Tokyo, before eventually beginning his label, Yoshida Kaban Seisakujo, at 29.
The brand’s progress, however, was halted in the face of World War 2. While Yoshida’s military enlistment came at the cost of his business, this situation perhaps sowed the seeds for his strongest pieces, with much of Porter Yoshida & Co.’s design language born directly from military influences.
His wife helping to ensure the preservation of vital tools, materials and machinery in his absence, Yoshida reignited his brand in 1951 having withstood the onslaught of the second world war. With a renewed energy and the new moniker of Yoshida & Co. Ltd, the fledgling label soon gained momentum leading into the mid-century.
Designs that offered practicality without forfeiting looks seemed well-placed for those in Japan's urban populace, while an elevated approach to everyday accessories saw Yoshida’s wares become renowned even further from home. One watershed moment in the brand’s rise occurred when Japanese Empress Emiki Michiko carried a white Yoshida-designed bag during an appearance on national television in the early 1950s.
This royal stamp of approval solidified the notion that Yoshida’s bags were for everyone - rugged and robust, whilst still refined and appealing, his products had become the benchmark for quality.
The next several decades saw his brand engrain itself within the Japanese conscious, whether a children's schoolbag, a travel-ready rucksack, or a businessman's briefcase, Yoshida bags were the go-to for style and reliability. The brand also formally introduced the Porter imprint in 1962, becoming its defacto flagship line, alongside a slew of other subsidiary labels housed beneath the wider Yoshida & Co. umbrella.
So, after overcoming adversity to flourish, gaining mass appeal, and firmly establishing itself within the Japanese landscape, how did Porter Yoshida & Co. come to find itself as such a perpetual staple of street style?
One vital component in this eventual transition arguably came in the form of the Porter Yoshida & Co. TANKER range. Now a permanent fixture of the brand’s wider catalogue, the TANKER range expands on Yoshida’s military influences, reworking aspects of the iconic MA-1 flight jacket. Evoking the classic bomber style through brass hardware, a vibrant ‘rescue orange’ lining, and a sturdy three-layer nylon fabric, this range has come to encompass shoulder bags, backpacks, briefcases, wallets and more, remaining central to the brand’s output.
With the everlasting appeal of military-influenced fashion, the TANKER product range seems a natural choice for the more style-conscious, though the credibility it lent would soon be bolstered by several other notable efforts from Porter Yoshida & Co.
Chief among these was the brand’s tendency towards collaboration, with all manner of products seeing limited, special edition releases in conjunction with an ever-expanding roster of brands. Reading like a veritable who’s who of the fashion landscape, Porter’s collaborative partners include the likes of Marni, JJJound, Hiroshi Fujiwara, Vans and our very own Garbstore, with linkups reaching even further afield to enlist the likes of Studio Ghibli and artist Will Sweeney.
Now a certifiable mainstay of street fashion the world over, Porter Yoshida & Co. Bags represent the best of Japanese design and manufacturing. Still proudly operating out of its home nation, all Porter products are produced in-house under the brand’s watchful eye, continuing to be made with the same quality, care, and attention as ever.