Atelier Japan: new luxury retailer opens its doors in Sheffield

A new luxury retailer which stocks exclusive products from Japanese craftspeople has opened its doors in Sheffield city centre, aiming to champion the heritage of both Japan and Sheffield’s industrious past.

Atelier Japan, which is based in a 300-year-old former toolmakers’ building, stocks products including handbags crafted by a former Samurai Sword producer, hand-painted traditional fans and intricately designed jewellery.

Shoppers queued on Arundel Street as the new high-end store - which has been six years in the making - officially opened on Saturday, August 5.

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The store is the brainchild of Johnny Pawlik, founder of ethical marketing company Mantra Media, and his business partner Masa Kuno.

Johnny Pawlik, co-founder of Atelier Japan.Johnny Pawlik, co-founder of Atelier Japan.
Johnny Pawlik, co-founder of Atelier Japan.

Speaking of the opening event, Mr Pawlik said: “The people who attended our opening events were the first to see most of these products outside Japan.

“Many of the products are one of a kind. They cannot be made again because they were created from a particular clay that no longer exists, for example.

“We’ve been inundated with requests from people asking when the new store will open, what we have in stock and even if they could work in the shop.

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“The Sheffield community has embraced this in an incredible way.”

Mr Pawlik personally visited each Japanese atelier whose products the shop sells.

The pair first launched Atelier Japan as an e-commerce platform, which went on to prove popular.

Last year, the company then launched its first physical store in a hotel located in Kyoto.

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The firm noted that they expect the new Sheffield store to be in high demand, particularly among the city’s international student population.

Mr Pawlik noted that seeing businesses struggle in Japan has in part inspired the pair to found the business.

He said: “We saw these small family businesses struggling in Japan - that had been around for 300, 500, even 1,000 years.

“The domestic market there was shrinking because of the low birth rate; we wanted to do

something about it.”

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While Sheffield is known for its steel making industrial past, Kyoto was traditionally considered to be a centre of traditional arts and crafts in Japan.

Mr Pawlik and Masa Kuno have also worked with the Kyoto Prefectural Government on the development of the project.

Discussing this work, Mr Pawlik said: “We told them the building where our Sheffield store is is a former toolmaker building. The whole street used to be ateliers, or what we would call workshops.

“They loved that heritage aspect and said Sheffield was like the UK’s Kyoto.”

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Many of the high-quality products on sale, including matcha tea, hand-painted ceramics, colourful coasters and artwork - are not available to buy elsewhere in the UK.

A number of the store’s products are created through the use of age-old methods, including the traditional indigo dyeing techniques of Tokushima, which date back around 800 years.

Atelier Japan is located at Ikigai House, 113 Arundel Street, in Sheffield city centre.

The opening has also created two jobs, with recruitment now open for a part-time retail assistant and part-time retail manager.

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