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Interview with Akira Ishiwatari, pLAtOy/TiNtOy designer

Above: Akira Ishiwatari, designer of brands pLAtOy and TiNtOy

Akira Ishiwatari’s career in eyewear started at Hakusan Optical Store in Japan. He then took part in the establishment of the brand 'Lunetta BADA'. Later, he worked at Alain Mikli Japon, then became an independent designer in year 2007. In year 2012, brands 'pLAtOy'and 'TiNtOy' were launched. He carefully selects materials made in Japan, with manufacturing taking place in the Veneto region in Italy.

Eyewear Culture interviewed designer Akira Ishiwatari, who was born in Tokyo, about the story leading up to the launch of his brands, inspirations, and his thoughts on design.


It was very nice to be able to see you in exhibition RUMBLE Tokyo in Spring.

First of all, this may be a very basic question, but why did you decide to work in the eyewear industry, considering that your first job after graduation was at an optical store?

After graduating, at the age of 21, I was still debating whether to concentrate on my studies or to work. At that time, Hakusan Optical Store, which frequently appeared in the popular fashion and information magazine in Japan 'POPEYE', was recruiting employees, and I was interested, so I joined as a mid-career hire.

At that time, I had no knowledge of this industry. I was very interested in things like trends in eyewear in abroad. Working in Hakusan Optical Store was a great learning experience and the foundation of my career.

What did you do at Hakusan Optical Store?

Initially, I wanted to work in the project planning department, but since there was no hiring, I started working as a salesperson. Processing of lenses, eyesight tests, and store clean ups, I did all of them for about a year. I first worked in Ueno, Nakano, and then at Kichijoji 'PARCO' in Tokyo. The on-site work there is alive in my design work.

I think it's important to know various things because without that knowledge, I don't think I can design glasses. Initially, I thought I could just draw a picture and be done, but by learning more about eyewear, it became clear that certain lines in the sketches are essential when designing.

After that, you were involved in the launch of the brand 'Lunetta BADA'?

I was invited by the managing director of Hakusan Optical Store and joined as a founding staff member of 'Lunetta BADA'. I was suddenly sent to the store in Kyoto and wondered when I would be able to work in planning.

There was a department store called 'VIVRE' in Harajuku, Tokyo and there I did behind-the-scenes design work, and we had about two craftsmen who would take my rough sketches and bring them to life. So all the models in the store were my designs.

I worked at 'Lunetta BADA' for 9 years. Then, together with my colleagues, we left 'Lunetta BADA' and started a brand called 'SCUDERIA' with four people. It didn't work out after about a year, though (laughs). After that, I worked at Hakusan Optical Store again.

Then, you worked at Alain Mikli Japon?

Yes, I received an offer when Alain Mikli Japon was being established.

I was still a salesperson, though (laughs).

In the end, I was put in charge of the store in Marunouchi, Tokyo. I worked at Alain Mikli Japon for about 9 years as well. After that, I started my own brand, and I received an offer from a buyer-like person in Italy. And that brings me to the present.

Along with designing eyewear, you also draw wonderful pictures and illustrations.

When did you start drawing?

Regarding illustrations and drawings, I haven't had any formal training or studied the basics at all. If I were to say, I attended a nearby art class from elementary school to middle school.

In that class, we were allowed to draw freely, and the teacher respected our individuality without instructing us to do this or that.

The teacher of the class was known for creating title calligraphy of NHK(Japan Broadcasing Corporation)'s historical drama series.

What role does drawing play in your life?

Doodling. I've always enjoyed doodling since I was a child.

I even doodled during the art class I attended. The teacher was pleased with it (laughs).

Top: Illustration by Akira Ishiwatari (From pLAtOy and TiNtOy 2018 collection)

Below: Illustration from pLAtOy collection

What inspires the designs of 'pLAtOy' and 'TiNtOy'? Do you draw inspiration from certain things or objects?

The fundamental aspect of the design is whether I like it on my own face.

I'm not particularly fond of designs and lines that is too complicated or unusual.

All the manufacturing is done in the Veneto region in Italy. If there is a reason for manufacturing in Italy, please tell us.

I used to manufacture in Japan. Japan-made eyewear have a very high quality and are something to be proud of on a global scale. So why Italy?

Italy has a long history of eyewear manufacturing. When Italian craftsmen add their touch to even the slightest lines or bends, it gives a subtly different and appealing finish. My designs have sharp edges and no rounded corners, and this kind of craftsmanship requires meticulous workmanship.

I believe that FAOFLEX, a company in Italy, provides the ideal finishing and lines that match my design.

Top: pLAtOy model CLARK Col.CAMO

Top: pLAtOy model FOXY Col.BURN

Above: TiNtOy model SPUTNIK Col.HONEYCAM

Materials and parts such as acetate and hinges are made in Japan. Please tell us the reason you choose Japan-made materials.

For my designs, I have been using acetate from Takiron-Rowland Limited, the only acetate factory in Japan. Their acetate provides stable colours and excellent finishing.

The hinges are made by Tega Seiko, a Japanese company. They use a 7-barrel hinge design with back screws and have been producing these hinges for over 60 years. The choice is based on the precise craftsmanship of the metal parts like hinges and the reliable production techniques during inspections.

Below: New colour of Model Cride from pLAtOy, using acetate from Takiron-Rowland Limited, the only acetate factory in Japan - Model Cride Col.VERT

Bottom: 7-barrel hinge design with back screws from Tega Seiko Co., Ltd. in Japan, used in both pLAtOy and TiNtOy

Top: The illustration also explains about hinges carefully

How have you meet FAOFLEX, the company that manufactures and produces 'pLAtOy' and 'TiNtOy'?

I searched for opportunities with someone like a buyer from Italy who gave me an offer when I became an independent designer.

Initially, I was considering Japanese production. However, when we decided to work together, we realized that Japanese production would be expensive, so we started looking for good factories in Italy. We searched through about 4 to 5 options, and in the end, FAOFLEX remained as the final choice. Their manufacturing incorporates advanced technology, which is truly impressive.

When looking for a factory, did you consider factories outside of Italy as well?

Yes, I saw factories in the Jura region of France and Italy.

'pLAtOy' and 'TiNtOy' are particularly known brands in Europe. Why do you think they are popular in Europe?

In Europe, this model(model FOXY of brand pLAtOy) is especially popular.

The reason why brands are known in Europe is because they are currently only distributed in Europe. No one in Japan knows about them (laughs).

That's not true (smile).

We would like more people to wear 'pLAtOy' and 'TiNtOy' in Japan.

Thank you very much for your valuable time and precious comments.

Top: pLAtOy and brand POLIQUANT's collaboration frame, model Politoy (Image from pLAtOy Facebook page)

Above: pLAtOy model DECOTEC Col.GRANITE (Image from pLAtOy Facebook page)


'pLAtOy' and 'TiNtOy' Brand details:

The brand name 'pLAtOy' is based on a playful wordplay of the phrase "play plastic toys" and aims to evoke the sense of wonder when a child first holds a new toy. The brand name 'TiNtOy' associates with tin toys. All materials used are made in Japan, and the manufacturing takes place in the Veneto region of Italy. The designer is Akira Ishiwatari.

INSTAGRAM: @platoy_akira_ishiwatari

Top: Interview scenes with Akira Ishiwatari

My design for glasses and traditional glasses factory FAOFLEX of Italy has good fusion.

Drinking all night, talking with friends lovable sometimes interesting with nature of the four seasons, of my design material is filled.

It's sentiment to always absorb the stimulus and knowledge. It's my pride to be referred to as the incredibles design.~~~~~

please enjoy the unique design  pLAy Plastic toy ....... pLAtOy




We had a great interest in interviewing designer, Akira Ishiwatari, who carefully selects materials from Japan and manufactures in Italy.

We were curious about the inspiration and criteria behind his designs. His desi Mn standards are based on his preferences for lines, and moreover, we found that his life experiences play a significant role in his designs. It was a great opportunity for us to learn how an attractive eyewear designs like brands "pLAtOy" and "TiNtOy" are brought to life.

We would like to express our sincere gratitude for the opportunity to interview Akira Ishiwatari. Thank you very much.



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