"I think while sketching with my pencils, and I make things with my industrial sewing machine. The process of how two-dimensional, flat pieces of fabric become a three-dimensional, practical bag always fascinates me."
Naoto "JUGG" Ishizuka is the lead bag designer at world renowned Blue Lug in Tokyo. JUGG and his team have been close friends of ILE for years––Blue Lug was our first retailer back in 2012 and has been instrumental in our brand's growth. We recently caught up with JUGG to learn more about his creative process, his coveted "SHTAK" messenger bags, and his special collection of ILE gear. Check out our interview below:
JUGG, tell us a bit about yourself, your journey, and where you got your nickname!
My name is JUGG, and I work for Blue Lug as a designer in the sewing department.
I was born in Singapore and raised in Tokyo until I moved to Spain at the age of 15. In a town called Ourense located in northwestern Spain, I joined the circus / self-sustaining community. Long story short, my juggling experience at that time is how I came to be called "JUGG". Yes, I can still juggle––try me with any round objects!
After a few years back in Japan, I moved to New York to study product design at Parsons in my mid 20s. I think most of my basic design aesthetics were established around that time, and what I learned there still has great impact on my work. Aside from my own design study, I was influenced by learning about great design styles such as Bauhaus. If I could, I would time-travel to the early 1900s and study at Bauhaus or Black Mountain College.
Living in New York City also got me interested in bicycle culture, especially messengers who were everywhere everyday. Biking to school, watching crazy people with cool bikes, in busy streets with hectic traffic, it’s a fun memory. That’s why I still love riding in the urban city. Tokyo, although it’s much bigger and the streets are more complicated than Manhattan, is of course my favorite city to cruise.
Tell us more about the type of work you do at Blue Lug. What does your creative process look like?
As you may know, Blue Lug is a bicycle shop in Tokyo. We are a unique collective of bicycle geeks, with extraordinary passions and creativities. My main job at Blue Lug is in bag design/making, just like Eric.
I design through my practice, relying on using my own hands. I like to see what comes out of my hands; I think while sketching with my pencils, and I make things with my industrial sewing machine. The process of how two-dimensional, flat pieces of fabric become a three-dimensional, practical bag always fascinates me. I would say “form follows function” very much speaks to my design style.
What other projects are you currently working on?
Although it is a part of Blue Lug, I have my own messenger bag line called "SHTAK" (in Japanese, the word refers to the nicely aged quality that comes from owning and handling items for a long time with care). This is a built-to-order only project I’ve run once a year since 2017, and I do everything by myself.
This project has become sort of a meditation for myself, and it provides a sense of validation for what I do every day. Drafting patterns, creating templates, cutting fabrics, and sewing them together into a bag. Doing every process all by myself allows me to slow down and reflect in a busy, fast working environment with other Blue Lug projects.
As the name "SHTAK" conveys, I hope to see how nicely each bag ages with each owner. I’ve made 50 of these bags every year for 6 years now, so about 300 of them are out in the world aging in all different ways, which excites and motivates me.
What ILE pieces are you carrying? How do they complement your daily life?
I have a Flaptop XL which I got in 2016, an Apex XL from 2018, and an early model of the Load Cell - Cuboid. I like big bags, and the Flaptop XL is my go-to bag for domestic travels. I don’t need to worry about extra space, and it always makes last-minute souvenir shopping easier.
My Apex XL is a special one! I ordered this when Eric visited Japan a while ago for a custom workshop at Blue Lug. We developed this idea together through conversation. I think Dimension-Polyant no longer produces this particular Olive XPAC, so that makes this bag a rare one too.
Every time Eric visits us for workshops, I’m always impressed with his generosity. Whether customers bring in crazy ideas or too many requests, I’ve always seen him be welcoming and try to have fun with various challenges without ever rejecting customers. I think it’s really great and I respect him as a fellow bag designer.
Photography by Blue Lug
BE THE FIRST TO FIND OUT ABOUT NEW RELEASES, UPCOMING EVENTS + MORE