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Happy Moo Year

As 2021 approaches, the events of the past year, in particular the COVID-19 pandemic, have left many of us changing the way we live and work and rethinking priorities in life. “On Design” looks to 2021, the Year of the Ox (or cow, depending on who you ask), with a few design collaborations featuring the auspicious bovine — because we could all do with a bit of good fortune.

Soap box fortunes

Cow Brand Soap Kyoshinsha’s milk-derivative-based beauty soap has been around for so long, its red-and-white packaging, featuring a Holstein Friesian cow logo, is nostalgic to many in Japan. In fact, in its 111-year history, the design has only been tweaked 11 times, most recently by graphic designer Akio Okumura.

To celebrate the Year of the Ox, the brand lends its famous logo to Nakagawa Masashichi Shoten for a lineup of limited-edition Japanese craft products, such as Holstein-patterned handkerchiefs, logo-emblazoned tenugui (cotton hand towels) and glass milk bottles filled with bath salts. It’s the third year of collaborations between the two companies, with similar items offered before. This year, however, includes a petite ceramic cow engimono (lucky charm) neatly packaged in a miniature Cow Beauty Soap box (¥605).

The stout little black-and-white cow can be displayed in its red box, which is windowed, and comes with a Japanese fortune slip, rolled into a tiny scroll tied to its neck like a collar. If you’re gifting the charm, don’t worry, Nakagawa Masashichi Shoten assures that all the slips, which contain blessings associated with cows, contain positive messages.

Cow Brand Soap Kyoshinsha: cow-soap.co.jp; Nakagawa Masashichi Shoten: bit.ly/nkms-cowsoap

Put on a good face

There’s a lot to like about KNT365 masks. Made from recycled polyester and organic cotton, they are seamlessly 3D knitted to leave no offcut waste, have pockets for filters, and are soft and stretchy for a snug fit.

Protective spots: KNT365’s eco-friendly Holstein Friesian cow print masks are made of cotton and recycled polyester and seamlessly knitted to avoid any waste offcuts.
Protective spots: KNT365’s eco-friendly Holstein Friesian cow print masks are made of cotton and recycled polyester and seamlessly knitted to avoid any waste offcuts.

Priced at ¥1,980, the cow masks are only available by preorder at the Beams online store.Launched this year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, KNT365 masks come in two styles — some with cord-like adjustable ear loops, and others with fixed but flexible rectangular ones.

The brand offers its own range of colors, plus a few patterns, but its collaboration with clothing brand B:Ming by Beams includes one of its boldest designs yet — full-on Holstein Friesian cow prints in brown and black. A subtly paler central section of each mask, behind which is the opening for a filter, tones down the pattern a little — but they’re still quite a fashion statement.

KNT365: knt365.thebase.in; B-Ming by Beams: bit.ly/b-ming-knt

Lucky cows

When Starbucks opened its Kyoto Ninenzaka Yasaka Chaya branch — its only store with tatami flooring — in 2017, it also began collaborating with Shimada Kouen Ningyo Kobo, a local maker of traditional ceramic gosho-ningyō (lucky chubby infant dolls). Since last year, the initiative has released several limited-edition gosho-ningyō and other lucky charms, all in Starbucks’ signature green, white and black, and each subtly sporting the logo’s five-pointed star.

The 2021 lineup, which is being sold exclusively at Starbucks Reserve Roastery Tokyo, includes a tabby manekineko (lucky cat, ¥33,000) with a raised left hand to beckon good business; gosho-ningyō with gourds (¥3,850-¥77,000), emblems of good health; and three new year ox ornaments.

Cow-bell: A lucky earthenware bell in the shape of an ox, made by Shimada Kouen Ningyo Kobo a Kyoto-based maker of gosho-ningyō (lucky chubby infant dolls).
Cow-bell: A lucky earthenware bell in the shape of an ox, made by Shimada Kouen Ningyo Kobo a Kyoto-based maker of gosho-ningyō (lucky chubby infant dolls).

The largest item — a black ox (¥4,400) — is an earthenware bell, a talisman believed to ward off evil, topped with a hemp cord, a symbol of purification. The colors of two smaller oxen (¥3,300) each represent different kinds of luck we really could do with next year: red to stave off illness, and white to attract prosperity. One gosho-ningyō doll in a set of three (¥66,000) also represents Gozu Tenno, the heavenly ox-headed king, a deity believed to protect against pestilence.

Shimada Kouen Ningyo Kobo: bit.ly/shimadafbk; Starbucks Reserve Roastery Tokyo: bit.ly/starbkstokyo

Dreams do cow-m true

For a one-stop shop of cow ornaments, homeware store Idee has just launched its Dreams Cow True campaign, a collection of cow engimono, toys and artworks, split into two parts. First up is a selection of handcrafted works by traditional artisans across Japan using papier mache, wood, bamboo and straw. Prices range from ¥1,210 for a stylishly patterned black, gray and white wooden cow from Tottori Prefecture to ¥4,180 for a slightly comical nodding dairy cow made of papier mache and ¥6,380 for a large natural wood version from Nara.

Cow art at Idee (clockwise from left): Sculpture by Daisuke Nakamura, wire piece by Kazunari Yamada and figurine by Ritsuko Imai.
Cow art at Idee (clockwise from left): Sculpture by Daisuke Nakamura, wire piece by Kazunari Yamada and figurine by Ritsuko Imai.

For something a little bit more sophisticated, Idee’s second series comprises specially commissioned cow-related sculptures and illustrations by six artists — Daisuke Nakamura, Ritsuko Imai, Kazunari Yamada, Kazuya Mougi, Ichiro Yamaguchi and Coricci. Admittedly, these are pricier at ¥11,000 for a small wire ox by Yamada to ¥121,000 for a painting by Mougi, but each is an original or limited edition.

Idee: bit.ly/ideecows

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