We love the Japanese and workwear inspired styles from Ethan of Oil / Lumber! Read on to learn more about his inspiration and process.
What inspired you to become a maker? How does your heritage influence your designs and creativity?
I think a lot of things inspired me, but mostly my family. I come from a family of small business owners who used their hands to provide for their families, most didn’t have a choice, but they loved what they did. My dad’s side worked on cars and my japanese grandfather was a farmer. I am heavily influenced by my Japanese background, that now as an older guy I want to continually learn more and more about where I come from. I grew up Buddhist, playing in the Church’s Taiko Group which meant me wearing a Happi coat to practice in, along with traveling to other churches to meet other japanese folks who taught me a lot about the culture and what other Japanese Americans liked. Along with many festivals like Hanamatsuri and our annual Obon were big for me to try and connect with my japanese roots. My grandfather was a first generation farmer who worked extremely hard and a lot of his work ethic is instilled in my practice. I also was taught how to sew by my mom at a young age, who used to construct Japanese coats for me as a kid. A lot of the patterns and designs are renditions of jackets that she made for me.
What is your favorite piece in your collection and why?
My favorite piece varies throughout the seasons and years, but currently my favorite piece is our Haori coat. It is a very versatile and functional garment allowing it to be worn year round. The lines are very simple, but the item that can fit many body types and is meant to be worn by any and all people.
What is something about your heritage(s) that makes you proud?
I am very proud to be a Japanese American, as a young kid I didn’t realize how many great things were being taught to me that I’ve been able to pass onto my family and with a newborn I hope I can continue to pass along recipes and knowledge of those before me.
My mom and her siblings grew up in a time where they were trying to be as “american” as possible to try and blend in with the culture, and we are in a day and age where being different is something that really shows our humanity and creativity, so being different has only allowed me to see things from a different perspective share that with people.
What is the size range of your pieces? Do you have plans to expand your size range to be more inclusive of plus size people?
Currently we offer male -XS-XXXL which covers size 2-18 currently. Because we are a made to order operation we are always open to making items for those folks who fit outside that range. Our mission is to make things with purpose for all people, and we are always open to expanding sizes for those who want to own a garment from us.
What have you been doing during the COVID-19 pandemic to stay grounded?
Honestly, i’ve been spending a ton of time at home with my wife and newborn. It’s been really nice to spend this time with them, as I tend to work too much. Other than that we’ve been having our sewing team sew items from home to keep orders going out the door, and we’ve been working with many local medical providers to provide cloth masks to those who are in need. We made roughly 1500 masks in partnership with Elizabeth Suzann in our first round of donations and hope to start to produce more masks to donate along with selling to the public in order to keep people safe!