In the Workshop with Hiroko Shiratori

In the Workshop with Hiroko Shiratori

We invited Hiroko Shiratori, Aesop’s Tokyo-based Brand Curator, into our workshop to make her very own bespoke pair of spectacles from scratch. Then we picked her brain about everything from her favourite Tokyo spots to how she ended up with every designer’s dream job. 

You’re the Brand Curator for Aesop in Tokyo, a company we have a particular affinity with. How did you end up working at Aesop? 

It’s a long story, but it started when I got to know the company founder, Dennis, through a project I was working on when I was living in the UK. Through this connection I ended up helping with Aesop in Japan, and then started working full time for Aesop in Australia. I’m currently back in Japan and mainly support the Asia region. This is the tenth year of my unique journey with the company. 

Tell us about one of your favourite projects for Aesop. Bonus points for anything strange and unusual. 

It’s hard to pick one. Every project is special for different reasons. 

If you hadn’t gone down the curation career path, what do you think you’d be doing instead? 

I made this title up, and it’s not really regular ‘curator’ work that I do at Aesop. I do take care of the touch points of brand aesthetic and expression, and help to advocate its culture. I also support three dimensional expression, from initial concept to execution. 

I have a background in furniture and spatial design, and it remains my main work outside of Aesop. Partly due to the experience in creative direction that Aesop has given me, I also get involved in designing the total expression of a brand, which I enjoy doing for its storytelling and orchestration aspects.

We’re very picky about our neighbourhoods, and our stores are located in some of our favourite parts of London. When you were studying here, where was your neighbourhood and what did you love about it? Are there any places you particularly look forward to visiting when you’re back in London? 

I lived in East for the majority of the time I was in London. I liked spending time around the City and Shoreditch; it was just before full-on gentrification, when it still felt dirty and you could sense the Victorian east London not too long ago, with old businesses and newer, tasteful small businesses, both of which you could see real people behind. 

In terms of specific places, Wellcome Collection is a place I always visit when I come back. 

As you know, London and its architecture is an innate part of our brand. Where do you look when you’re hoping for inspiration to strike?

I seem to get more inspiration from nature, something less man-made. In nature, including human nature, I try to look for patterns, structures, backgrounds, logic, which often somehow forms inspiration for me.

I have a strange weak spot for brutalist architecture, it cheers me up when I’m feeling flat. In London, unsurprisingly, I like wandering around Barbican and the Southbank. 

You’re now the proud owner of a very beautiful bespoke frame, made by your own fair hands. What ideas did you start with when it came to designing these? Did you have any particular reference in your mind?

I didn’t have a reference, but there were some reasons that dictated the result. I’ve recently changed my hair colour and all my old spectacles no longer looked right, so my first aim was to make a pair that suited my new look. Also, I like chunky looking spectacles, but in the past these have given me neck pain, so I wanted to get the heaviness right myself. 

How did you find your spell in the Cubitts workshop? Do you see a career in spectacle making in your future?  

I do have workshop experience, mainly with wood, from my background in furniture, but this was my first time working with acetate which was exciting. It was inspiring to learn about the considerations and craft behind spectacle design, and I’ve already drawn up some patterns for possible designs and found some more materials to try. I’ll see how it goes... 

We want to see your stomping ground in Tokyo next. Where would you recommend we go, and what should we do?

The area around Meguro River is one of my recommendations. There are many small shops and a variety of places to eat and drink, day and night. The river (although it has almost no water) is well known for cherry blossoms and attracts a few too many people when the flowers are full. I recommend going there in the evening towards the very end of the bloom to sit by the river with a drink. Shallow water simmers with pink flowers floating along, while a fresh breeze flows up the street. 

Don’t mind us, just hopping on a plane.