That’s what prompted Anirban, co-founder of Ryokō and passionate photographer, to begin looking for a new camera bag. He needed something functional that would fit his everyday work style, and also weather the tolls of travel – the other thing that both he and his wife, Noon loved doing during their free time.
Disappointed with the lack of practical options, Noon and Anirban decided to design & handcraft one themselves. And that’s how Ryokō (which means “travel – 旅行” in Japanese) was born in 2015.
Ryokō’s initial range of leather goods soon became a hit among Dubai’s local and cosmopolitan community. Now, three years into their journey, the duo have extended their range beyond camera accessories to hand-stitched wallets, briefcases, and all kinds of travel gear, and are branching out to UK, Australia and Singapore through their retail partners. The common ingredient is the unique full-grain leather which are sourced mostly from Japan and some from Italy and India. Especially their wallets are handmade with intricate traditional saddle stitching – which gives Ryokō its classic yet contemporary look and feel.
What’s the Japanese connection? The material, for starters – Noon & Anirban wanted their accessories made from high quality leather that ages and gets better with time. This took the pair on a journey to tanneries in various countries, learning traditional craftsmanship from artisans. They chose Japanese Vegetable-Tanned leather for their hand-stitched range for its durability and natural feature. The slower tanning process is what gives their leather goods the beautiful patina. Starting with a beautiful pale tan shade, it eventually develops into any range of browns through wear and use.
But there’s another reason too. Once the pair decided to turn their penchant for leathercraft into a business, they had to cancel a 23-days holiday to Japan. Instead, they vowed that they would one day take Ryokō leather goods to Japan, the country where their inspiration originated.
For Noon and Anirban, the name encapsulates the mission. Their own love for travel is perfectly captured in their designs – durable and functional but stylish at the same time. And through their passion, Noon & Anirban have met like-minded people all over the world. Photographers who, like them, wanted to capture the moments in style, and travellers who wanted accessories that could see the world with them.
Ultimately, that’s one of the key reasons behind Ryoko’s success. The couple knew they were designing products that people wanted because they themselves did as well. Anirban realised that the gap in the market was his own needs for functional travel accessories. What turned Ryokō from a search for the right bag into an actual business was simply the belief in their own instincts – the belief that there would definitely be other people out there who would share similar interests.
There will always be people who share your interests, and are willing to invest their time and effort into them just as much as you are. For Ryoko, those people were photographers and travellers. Connecting with them opened a whole new journey for Noon and Anirban, allowing them to focus their attention on doing what they love. And that connection continues to shape their journey ahead. Their focus on the needs and desires of fellow travellers gives direction to Ryoko’s future designs.
Their success came from pursuing their own passions and finding others who share them. The message? Do what you love, and others will follow.