October 30, 2022

Interview: AND WOOL

インタビュー<br> AND WOOL 村松啓市



AND WOOL creates high-quality garments and accessories made on hand operated knitting machines. Their mission is to promote the appeal of knitwear by bringing visibility to the people making the products and by creating opportunities for employment and communication as an investment in the future.

Keiichi Muramatsu heads AND WOOL as director and is also active as a designer for his fashion brand muuc. We visited him at the AND WOOL atelier and shop nestled among the tea fields of Shimada City, Shizuoka, to learn more about how he combines business with handcrafts and handmade products. The sounds of knitting machines provided a steady rhythm throughout our interview.

Keiichi majored in knitwear design at Bunka Fashion College. He says that dressmaking was more popular, but he chose knitwear because it was the common element of both the haute couture fashion he admired and the everyday clothes he liked to wear.

After graduation he studied in Italy with long-established luxury yarn manufacturer Lineapiù Italia. Assigned to a department that gave presentations to brands like Ralph Lauren and Armani, he was able to learn immersed in top-class knitwear design. There, he experienced the value of handwork and the limitless nature of knitwear firsthand. Even if he didnʼt share a common language with someone, he found that outstanding work could be understood without any words at all. Thanks to studying machine knitting techniques in Japan, he was able to make an impression on his hosts and clients by sharing methods for incorporating handcrafted elements into mass production.

Back in Japan, he began his career as a fashion designer by starting his own brand in Tokyo between the ages of 22-23. He says this experience revealed one of the dangers of the fashion industry to him. He had hoped to operate his brand like an event planning company that did fun things with knitwear, but he found that he was at the mercy of the times, constantly creating one new thing after another just to keep the company running. He was always racing against time and began to feel frustrated that he was not working for the future.

On top of that, everyone from the factories he spoke to was over sixty years old. With the artisans aging and the number of factories dwindling, Keiichi had the feeling that it would soon become impossible to make the garments he sought to create.

Another obstacle was that although he was able to develop his skills and confidence during his studies in Italy, with fewer knitting experts in Japan, the unique and interesting touches in his work often went unnoticed. Instead of trying to gain appreciation for the details of his designs by expounding on the high level of skill involved, he had the idea to take a farmersʼ market-inspired approach. He thought it could be more effective to create a personal experience by providing details about the people who made the items as well as how they were made. That experience, he thought, could even generate a new type of value. Choosing to scale down and work to invest in the future, he relocated to his hometown of Shimada City and started AND WOOL in 2016.

AND WOOLʼs main products are scarves, sweaters, arm warmers, and other knitwear pieces made on hand driven knitting machines. Their soft, machine-knit scarves with tidy, consistent stitches are especially popular.

One of AND WOOLʼs strengths is its ability to incorporate the design and technical elements of handmade pieces into garments and accessories for mass-production. They donʼt just design new items; they thoroughly examine the production efficiency, too. Handmade pieces will inevitably require a higher price tag, but very expensive items can only reach a small minority of the population. AND WOOLʼs goal is to make quality products with high efficiency and sell them at a price point that, while not cheap, is reasonable enough that more people can afford and experience high-quality knitwear.

In order to bring their ideal products to reality, they have also developed original yarns with several manufacturers, both in Japan and abroad.

The people who make AND WOOLʼs products include those who are unable to work outside of the home for various reasons as well as many people with disabilities who work through local employment support offices. The good thing about knitting is that it doesnʼt require much space or many tools, so itʼs easy to get started. Knitting staff can work from home or commute to the atelier. Those who are not as skilled in handknitting and finishing can borrow a knitting machine and knit straight pieces, while those who excel at finishing details do the binding and seaming.

For a scarf made of straight pieces, about four people are involved from production to shipping with each person completing different tasks such as knitting, binding off, ironing, and packaging. For sweaters, about two people are involved. By separating the production process and creating a workflow that evens out any differences in skill level, AND WOOL is also able to create jobs. 

At one facility, they succeeded in raising the workersʼ monthly pay from 10,000 yen to 30,000 yen, and the workersʼ skills and quality of life are improving, too.


However, challenges remain.

AND WOOL sometimes hears insensitive comments like, “knitting is basically just a hobby, why should handknit items be so expensive?” or “why do these things cost so much if disabled people are making them?” Even though AND WOOL is doing good things for the global environment and creating work opportunities, they still face challenges in gaining understanding for their mission. Not to condemn inexpensive clothes, but these days consumers generally expect to spend less money for an item of clothing, so it is a difficult time to create products with higher costs.

In response to these challenges, AND WOOL actively holds knit and crochet workshops as well as events for the local community to build communication and share their mission.

The appeal of knitwear, in Keiichiʼs opinion, is not limited to its interesting form. “Depending on how it is approached, I think itʼs a culture that can design and build communication in a local community or among those who engage in the craft.”

He has been offering workshops ever since his time designing in Tokyo, and creating a space for communication continues to be one of the pillars of AND WOOLʼs activities.

Another strength of AND WOOL is that they are not limited to products made on knitting machines, they can also create embellished and irregular designs. Even when creating hand knit and crocheted bodices for wedding dresses, they place an emphasis on efficiency by composing the designs with relatively simple pieces that can be made without extensive experience and then arranged to look more complex. Keiichi also worked on stage costumes when he was designing in Tokyo, so he has a skill for thinking of ways to create showy pieces with surprisingly simple methods. 

In addition to acting as director of AND WOOL, Keiichi also designs clothing and accessories, including umbrellas and bags, for his brand muuc. The concept of muuc is: “pursue beauty that touches the soul, as if creating an abstract painting with clothes as a canvas.” The brand prides itself on fine embroidery, prints with movement, and delicate knitwear made in cooperation with skilled artisans on industrial machines.

Keiichi takes care to scatter elements of handwork into the pieces he creates for muuc. For example, the embroidery for a garment will first be done by hand so the factory can use that sample to recreate the feel of the hand stitching. He explains that if an illustration is used instead, the machine will make something that looks too perfect. Even if the final embroidery will be done by machine, he tries to preserve the delicate nuances of hand stitching, and this is something that brings a unique touch to his work.

He has also recently become involved with the Japan Wool Project. It has been difficult to produce Japan-made wool ever since the last wool processing factories in the country shut down a few decades ago. Besides, the sheep in Japan have a wool that is stiff and not suitable for commercial production to begin with.

However, a group of volunteer ranchers and brands from all over Japan are working hard to revive domestic wool production before the technology for it is completely lost. Since 100% Japanese wool is too stiff to be used for clothing, they have created a blend of 70% merino wool and 30% Japanese wool. AND WOOL contributes to the cause by selling this yarn and producing sweaters made with it, too.


In the future, Keiichi would like to take steps to approach the international market.

Through AND WOOLʼs steady activities over the past few years, they have been able to develop a skilled group of knitters. In the past AND WOOL employees would teach new workers how to knit, but now experienced workers are able to teach newcomers directly. The next challenge is to increase the number of sales outlets and get their products into the hands of more people. The number of companies creating products with advanced handcrafted techniques is decreasing in both Japan and abroad, but there is no doubt that there is a small, enduring demand for these products. We look forward to watching Keiichiʼs activities as he continues working to build connections between handmade techniques and craftspeople into the future with AND WOOL and muuc.

Keiichi Muramatsu
Fashion designer. Studied knitwear design at Bunka Fashion College and Lineapiù Italia. Working as a designer for his fashion brand muuc, he holds shows and installations in Japan and abroad and is also active as a costume and knitwear designer. In 2016, he launched AND WOOL to expand the culture of knitting and has been pursuing the possibilities of knitwear and handwork by training new knitters and teaching people the joy of working with their hands.


1124-1 Yui, Shimada City, Shizuoka, Japan 427-0113
tel. 0547-54-4492 
fax. 0547-54-4493
Hours: 11:00–18:00
Closed: Sunday – Tuesday

Instagram: @and_wool  @muuc.jp

Photos courtesy of AND WOOL

Photo1: Interior of And Wool shop in Shizuoka, Japan. 
Photo2: Instructions for mitts and samples of mitts made with a hand-knitting machine.
Photo3: Sweaters and other garments designed by Keiichi for his muuc brand.
Photo4: Their full-time and part-time staff working in the workshop, discussing designs.
Photo5: Working with a hand knitting machine.
Photo6: One of And Wool yarns, labeled as No.2.