Koyudo, one of the leading company for the production of high-quality Japanese makeup brushes, says that staying ever-changing, challenging company was the key to their success.
Interview date: May 19, 2017
What does “Koyudo” mean and does it have a backstory?
As “晃 (Ko)”, the first letter of Koyudo in Kanji suggest, it means that we will aim to be a company that shines like the sun.
What is the most important belief of Koyudo?
To put it in simplest form it is “To keep on changing to stay the same”. Even if and when we are valued and getting good feedback from a customer, we would have to work hard to surpass that expectation in the future, to continuously try to be better than before. That is how we work at Koyudo.
How many staff members are there?
We have 3 factories in Kumano right now; Our headquarter, second factory and makeup brush factory. About 80 people work in those factories right now. Most of them – about 70 – are craftsmen and craftswomen.
How hard is it to become part of craftsmen at Koyudo factory?
If you want to be a full-fledged craftsman at Koyudo, it would take at least 10 years of experience. But we have built a system that allows new comer to join the factory and start making brushes without years of training. We have split up the brush-making process into smaller steps so that it is easier to master one step. There are about 30 steps for calligraphy brushes, and 60 to 70 steps for makeup brushes.
“It would still take one about 10 years to master all the steps and produce a brush of great quality.”
Of course, one can make brush after learning all the steps in a year or two, but it would not be as good as the Koyudo’s highest grade brush.
What is the biggest difference between low-quality cheap brushes and high-quality brushes?
The biggest difference is the tip of the bristle. Kumano brushes or fude have its root in calligraphy brushes, so the tip of the bristle always played a vital role in its quality and role as a tool to draw. Evolving from the calligraphy brush, all the Kumano Makeup brush has an uncut, natural tip of the hair.
Makeup brushes produced oversea has its origin elsewhere, and often times the hairs are cut to form the shape of the brush. The edge of the cut hair could cause irritation and “itchy” feeling on the skin.
So the biggest difference comes from a feeling of soft touch of the bristle, and how to take advantage of it in most natural, ideal way.
How does Koyudo select materials for Brushes?
Materials for the best makeup brush, natural hair is imported from oversea; China, Russia, Canada and northern America. When we import them, we choose to differentiate and divide everything into small, fine category.
For instance, Goat hair can be divided into 10 categories based on the part of the body. Male and female hair of Weasel has a different characteristic in its color, elasticity and how it shines. We will use well-categorized fur to make our makeup brush exactly what our customer wants.
Material plays a vital role in the finishing product, so we work hard to import quality material and selecting them to craft the best Japanese makeup fude.
We have over 100 categories of hair for calligraphy brush, and around 20 categories for makeup brushes since not all the hair is fit for facial skin.
How did Koyudo come to be known for creating unique, colorful brushes and be successful in oversea market?
We started out as a calligraphy brush manufacturer without “Koyudo” brand name on it. About 14 years ago in 2003, we started producing makeup brushes with Koyudo brand. But we were the last to start producing makeup brushes, so the domestic market was already filled with brushes produced by other companies. That’s why we actively pursued oversea market and focused on creating a friendly product that really appeals to customers with its cute, colorful look.
How do you develop unique brushes?
One of our most unique and successful brush so far, the Heart shaped brushes were actually not developed based on design but from functionality.
A normal makeup brush has only one peak. So what if a brush has multiple peaks? Would it carry more powder? How would it work differently?
We made few prototype and one of them was colored. We realized it look just like the heart, so we registered it and it has become one of our signature models since then.
When you develop a new product, what do you most focus on?
The functionality. Of course, the appearance is important, but we are very focused on functionality and usability as a tool. Craftsmen often tend to regard all the product they make with care are the best, but their ”best” has to match well with what customer really wants. So we always try our best to know more about what user really want and work hard to provide the brushes that best serve as their solution with Koyudo’s “Kawaii” element.
Good product with universal appeal is what we aim to achieve with our cosmetic brushes.
How do you approach the customer to find out their needs?
We go to beauty product events of Japanese department store as well as oversea conventions and sell directly to a customer while listening to their feedback. While we a manufacturer, we are also a seller and distributor.
Koyudo staff, including myself, go to shops and sell our product ourselves.
I went to Asian countries such as Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore to expand our business. That was a valuable experience that helps me to this day. It is always the best to get raw, real feedback from the customers.
Now, we have two direct-selling shops in Hong Kong, and we regularly participate event in Taiwan, Singapore, and Thailand.
What message would you like to deliver through your makeup brushes?
Well, the makeup brush has its root in Europe. There, a hard brush with strong, resilient hair was considered to be an ideal quality. Recently, brushes with a soft tip like Kumano fude are starting to be recognized.
So I want to ask new customer to try using our brushes without prejudgment, to actually feel the difference from conventional brushes
What is the biggest Charm of the makeup brush?
The charm of the makeup brush… let’s see.
It’s the smile.
We use makeup brush because we need it, it’s a tool to achieve better look but I believe it’s more than that. It’s something that helps you present yourself in a different way, to show little more cute or beautiful side of yourself.
It has its real value when you use it on yourself. You can be little different, little better with the brush and it makes people happy.
If a brush makes you frown in any way, it’s not a good brush at all.
I am confident to say that all of our brushes deliver great satisfaction every time. We have produced over 1,000 different kind of brushes that goes well with any kind of products you can imagine.
Interviewer/writer: Hiro Kano