Designer Eri × Yuma and Coco — Spending yet another day together

Apr 16, 2012 / Interviews

Photography: Shin Suzuki Editing & Text: Madoka Hattori Translation: Seth High

Eri is the designer behind the fashion label known as 'mother'. She also lives alongside two cats - Coco and the strangely-colored Yuma. Having grown up with cats always by her side, Eri gets along with her feline companions quite naturally. By seeing Yuma and Coco's relaxed facial expressions, you can really sense how much fun it is to live with cats.

3 Cats and a Cat-loving Father

- Have you lived alongside cats since childhood?

"When I was in elementary school, there was this stray cat that hung out at my father's company. Though I had previously suffered an allergy to cats, I had no problems at all when I touched this one. So it came about that we took the cat into our home. Actually, I still have an allergy to cats. However, I can eventually develop an immunity to the cats that live with me. Because our first cat wasn't so strong, it became ill and passed away when it was about 13 years old. Several years before that, when my father was on a business trip in Osaka, he discovered a tabby kitten at a shrine that somebody had gotten rid of. After playing with it, he became quite attached. So just like that, he took it back with him on the bullet train. We gave the kitten the name 'Aniki' ('Big Brother'). It's now 12 years old. There's also one more, a 6-year old black cat named 'Akubi' ('Yawn') who we found on a pet adoption website."

- How did you first encounter Yuma and Coco?

"Unlike dogs, keeping cats doesn't take much time and effort unless they are sick. Moreover, just having cats in my home changes the atmosphere. Whenever I come home, I can feel that they are around. When I first left my parents house, I realized that living without cats is really lonely. So I got online and began searching pet adoption websites. Though I ended up finding my cats on the same website that we discovered 'Akubi', they were kept by a different animal shelter. Though Akubi had been rescued by a veterinary clinic, Yuma and Coco were being looked after by a woman who was active doing volunteer activities. The litter of kittens contained 5 brothers and sisters. Some of the other kittens had already been selected by new owners. Yet, considering how well they all got along, I can't help but think, 'I should have taken home all five of them, not just the two."

- When you first decided that you wanted to take one in, was there anything in particular that you were looking for in your new cat?

"To me, every tabby meant Aniki and every black cat equated to Akubi. Therefore, I kind of thought that it would be good to get a cat with a different fur color. So when I browsed the cats on the website, both Yuma and Coco struck me as having very unusual fur colors. The second I laid my eyes upon them, I said, 'There they are!' Quickly, I contacted the organization. At first, I hadn't even thought about getting two cats. However, Yuma's gray color was so rare, and the brown Coco was so cute. I just couldn't decide between the two. While I was deliberating whether or not to bring home two cats, the person taking care of them said, 'Why don't you just try it out.' So they brought the two cats to my house. Though my heart wasn't very prepared for the decision, the instant they came into my home, I declared, 'I'm keeping them both!" Fate had been decided."

A Calm Big Sister and a Naughty Little Sister

- After coming into your home, did it take Yuma and Koko much time to get used to the new environment?

"Because they were still 2-month old kittens, they were barely within the age-range for being adopted. However, they were all kinds of trouble at first. Because I had never kept kittens before, I would try things like patting their butts to try and make them pee. It made me really nervous whenever I had to leave them home alone. When I got home from work once, I wasn't able to find them anywhere. Finally, there they were rolled up in a ball together in the deepest part of the closet (laughs). Now, however, they are not a burden at all."

- Though your cats are twins, are their personalities different?

"Yuma is a real sweetheart. She sleeps next to me and stands by while I'm working. Considering her small size, she is extremely athletic and agile. She runs all over and jumps up to quite high places. When someone comes over, her slight fear of strangers will sometimes make her get angry. In this way, she can maybe be a little strong-minded. In contrast to this, Coco's head is often in the clouds. She kind of acts without thinking about what she's doing. Sometimes this makes the way she behaves or stands around look quite funny (laughs). Coco is really affectionate with my boyfriend. She will undoubtably sleep next him and stare up at him like a girl in love. Because they are twins, they have no 'older' or 'younger' sister-like relationship. However, their characters are pretty much set. Coco is the calm and selfish older sister while Yuma is the mischievous little sister."

- Do the two of them ever fight?

"There are times when they will playfully roughhouse together. However, they never get into actual fights. They share the same dish when eating. Moreover, even though I used to have separate litter boxes for them, they didn't differentiate between the two. So now they only share one. Recently, I switched over to a 'Nyantomo Seiketsu Toire'. At first, Coco didn't like it. She would find some other place in the house to poop. However, after a while, she finally got used to it. In addition to being siblings, they are also the same sex. Perhaps due to this, they aren't very territorial or sensitive about having one's own space."

Tips for Living Comfortably with Cats

- Are your cats very picky about food?

"Neither of them have any particular likes or dislikes when it comes to food. However, depending on the type of food, Coco has allergies that will make her lose hair. I tried things like natural foods and stuff with few additives. However, I was told that the problem wasn't additives - it was allergies to certain proteins. So now, at the veterinarian's advice, I'm giving them low-molecular protein food from Royal Canin. Though I primarily serve them dry food, I occasionally mix in some canned food. I have their food dish raised up from the floor to accommodate their head positions. This evidently makes it less likely that they throw their food back up. Yuma seems to like natto. Whenever I'm eating it, she will come over and start licking her lips. If I leave a bag of bonito flakes unattended, I'll invariably come back to a bonito-flake mess all over the floor (laughs). Also, because I heard that sashimi has a teeth-cleansing effect for cats, I occasionally give it to them."

- Outside of allergies, have your cats had any major illnesses?

"Not really. When they were kittens, I took them to get vaccinations. Nowadays, I have to periodically take them to the vet when their allergies flare up. I'll put them in a bag for carrying cats and take them to the veterinarian's office by car. They don't seem to be bothered much by these trips. Because I use the same bag to take them to our vacation home, they don't necessarily equate carry bags with trips to the vet. Moreover, because I always leave the carry-bag lying around the room, the cats will naturally go over and get inside it. Maybe this is a tip for getting cats used to carry-bags."

- Is there any particular place in your house where the cats like to hang out?

"When people come over, they will escape to the top of my green-colored bookshelf. From up there, they have a good view of what's going on in the room. They will wear looks that say, 'Who are these people?' (laughs). However, they will also come over and do things such as lick people and smell their clothing and bags. If you pet them too much, they'll get stressed out and start scratching things. There is also a cat-tower in the bedroom that they seem to like. When I'm working, Yuma likes to sit on the sofa next to my desk and watch over me."

- Do your cats play with toys?

"They like it when I attach a ribbon to a pole and play with them. They play around with this a lot. Yuma really likes a toy doll I recently bought called 'Kiro-kun' (Mr. Yellow). She will kick it around with her back paws. Though I don't really have any toys specifically designed for cats, they often play around. When all is said and done, their favorite thing to do is play with each other."

Liking Cats Because They are "Dismissive"

- Do you have a collection of cat-related items?

"Though I'm not extremely attracted to cat-related things, I have recently found myself buying objects designed by Lisa Larson. I discovered them at a bookstore (SPBS) run by an acquaintance. They come in colors that somehow remind me of Yuma and Coco. I also have a wooden cat that I bought at a second-hand clothing shop as well as a maneki-neko (beckoning cat) from a shrine that somebody gave me. As for books, I absolutely love 'Kuroneko', which a friend introduced me to. I'm reading it all the time. Because I read and pass along cat comics, I have no idea where they are right now (laughs)."

- Are many of the people around you also cat-lovers?

"Yeah, I guess you could say so. Actually, along with some cat-loving friends such as Miu (Sakamoto), I created a private cat-group on Facebook. We put up pictures or our own cats or videos we find online and enjoy clicking 'like'. My father also participates. He'll comment on a photo of a kitten by writing something like, 'I can eat three bowls rice soup while looking at this kitten.' (laughs). Among the staff at my company, there are also a lot of cat-lovers. I'd say that more than half of them have their own cats. Previously, I made a bag that featured an embroidered cat's head. For the 2012 spring/summer collection, which will be coming out shortly, I've designed a t-shirt based on a cat pattern. Up until now, customers of 'mother' have not necessarily been cat-lovers. So, I'm happy that we can extend a hand to new cat-loving customers as well."

- To you, what is the most attractive thing about cats?

"I like how they are dismissive. Also, I feel their sense of ennui really matches me well. Because I have kept cats since I was a child, I am naturally more familiar with them than I am with dogs. However, when I am busy with work and unable to give my cats much attention, I still can't help but feel a little guilty. However, at the same time, if I pet my cats too much, they will run away as if to say, 'Stop that already!' Right now in my life, I think that's the perfect distance to have with a pet. Actually, I cared for my first cat up until the day it died. At the end, due to renal failure, it wasn't even able to eat. Even now, I don't think that I'm quite over the shock of that experience. With this in mind, it's just such a true delight to be able to spend the day together with Yuma and Coco."

  • name: Yuma / Coco
  • age: 5 / 5
  • sex: Female / Female
  • lind: Mixed
  • eri
    Eri was born in New York in 1983. In 2002, she founded a fashion label called 'chico'. Focusing on the design of items using originals textiles, lace and embroidery, she created 'mother' in 2004. Five years later, she began her second-line, 'FIG femme'. Along with Miwako Ichikawa (model) and Suiren Higashino (photographer and model), Eri also co-wrote a book title 'Ruru Nikki' (Little More).