Leather Wallet


Daisuke Motoike

from MOTO




Find out little-known yet interesting facts about clothing through the words of discerning designers who have been creating
essential masterpieces for BEAMS PLUS collections.
The crucial new philosophy of BEAMS PLUS,
“Updating timeless classics for the future,” cannot be achieved without their wealth of knowledge.


Daisuke Motoike (Designer of MOTO)Born in 1974, Motoike was raised in an environment surrounded by leather crafts made by his father, Hideo Motoike, who runs leather goods brand LEATHER ARTS & CRAFTS MOTO, while being known also as a leather puppet artist. He moved to Florence, Italy, at the age of 20 to learn engraving techniques at a local fine jewelry studio. After going back to Japan, he established a brand called LEATHER & SILVER MOTO with his brother Sakuto in 1997. In 2013, Motoike started a project, MOTORARY, to attempt at new challenges and experimental endeavors, carrying on skills that his father passed down to him.

I’ve been intrigued by
the emotional aspect of leather
that cannot be valued by
its functions and numbers.

Wallets have been improved
according to the times
and the
changes on the shapes of currency.

“The history of wallets began very early, because people carried it at least around 2500 B.C. as long as I know. One of the oldest wallets I saw in a photo is made of leather just like current ones, although it’s hard to guess how ancient men actually used the piece decorated heavily with beast fangs.

Modern wallets originated in Europe. People used leather pouches to bring their money when there were only coins, but, after the invention of paper currency in the 1600s, the design of wallets was updated to neatly hold both coins and notes. Card slots started to be added to many wallets in the 1950s as the first credit card came out around that time.”

“In Euro-American countries in the 1920s and 1930s, the majority of wallets came with a pocket featuring an opening for a family photo, because there was no credit card around. It’s a now disappeared detail that reflects the culture of the time. Smartphone may have taken over the role in the modern society.

After the essential contents of a wallet have been determined as coins, notes and cards, new trends have been created within the regulations. Though there was the time when wallets with large storage and many pockets were considered better, now the size of each wallet becomes smaller as more and more people go for cashless payment these days. Just like clothes, the design of wallets has been changed and improved in accordance with the times.

Right: Motoike made this mini wallet not for sale, but for himself in 2007.
Left: This horse leather “pocket wallet” was designed exclusively for BEAMS+ (BEAMS PLUS) based on the design of the mini wallet.

“I sometimes become eager to go against such trends, though. For example, a small wallet design come into my mind when bigger sized wallets catch on everywhere. So, I made a mini wallet just for myself in 2007, at the time when many people used volume wallets. Though I’ve never commercialized it, the design became the base of a product made exclusively for BEAMUS PLUS after 12 years.

Things we put in our wallets are almost fixed – money, cards, receipts etc. - and a wallet need to have appropriate usability to hold all of them neatly. In that sense, wallet designers are apt to be trapped by stereotypical views on their own designs. However, the creative talent of a designer and the skills of a craftsman can be seen the most in such items with structural restrictions. I personally see a wallet as a product that arouses my creativity with adequate freedom of design.”

A horse leather zipped wallet
made exclusive for BEAMS+.

We have kept valuable things
in a case made of a precious material
since time immemorial.

“Looking back the history of wallets, you may realize that leather has been most commonly used for the item from as early as 4000 years ago to present as far as I’ve researched. Of course there was a period when wallets made of fabric such as nylon became popular, but leather is definitely all-time classic material for wallets.

Even though there are so many quality materials in vivid and long-lasting colors in modern society, numerous brands, from prestigious maisons to fast-fashion labels, still offer leather wallets in response to their customers’ expectations. Needless to say, money and credit cards are valuable, and leather is considered as a luxury material. We may unconsciously think that valuable things should be kept in a case made of a precious material. The warmth it has as a natural material is another characteristic that attracts many of us. It makes us feel safe, comfortable and relaxed as we touch leather. The mysterious charm of the material that cannot be evaluated only by its functions and figures has always intrigued me as well.

The new value was created by
young designers during the seek for
a way to make their brands known
in the old-fashioned industry

Because long-term relationships and financial power are crucial in the Japanese leather industry, young and budding brands cannot even place exclusive orders with tanneries at the beginning. So, we used to make our original leather by fabricating ready-made leather purchased from tanners. Our brand position to start our product development by materials processing has not changed until today. We actually did it as a makeshift solution at first, but now the process gives a further advantage to MOTO.

But the situation surrounding the industry has been changed in the past 10 years, with more and more tanneries working with relatively minor brands like us. So, we can now place demanding orders and ask them to help us develop new materials. MOTO, however, asks them to eliminate existing detailing more often than to create something new. What we want to do is not to add something, but to have uncompleted, solid leather in a as raw as possible state. We want to add finishing touches by ourselves.

You may understand what I mean if you explore how leather changes its look over time. Overlooking some tiny scuffs and spots on it, we use ‘non-dressed’ as natural as possible leather. It is just because we would like our customers to enjoy the beautiful aging process with use.”

“I believe MOTO was the first brand that offered a zipped long walled made of non-glazed leather. Although long wallets used to be regarded as an accessory for women, it became popular also among men after the launch of a masculine zipped long wallet by a Gothic silver and leather goods brand based in California. On the other hand, long wallets made of vegetable-tanned leather used to be considered as a part of the motorcycle culture, being solidly designed with thick leather and decorated with concho studs. It was around the same time when we introduced our first long wallet. The item looked smart and classy even though made of vegetable-tanned leather, while improving its color with use like a motorcycle wallet. The design was truly innovative at the time.

Not just MOTO, but also many other craft leather brands that got acclaimed later than the 1980s have created their own ways of expression with their fresh sensibilities and senses of values during the seek for a way to make their brands known in the industry, struggling to participate in the existing system.”

A prototype of the brand’s tote bag made for an event held at BEAMS+ in the end of July.

“I’ve been especially into using horse-hide for the past few years. In the end of July, we held a custom-order event at which participants could order a bag by picking a material from a large selection of horse-hide leather. To be honest, horse-hide was not on the top of our material list until about 10 years ago. It is quite difficult to make products out of it because raw horse-hide is coarse and has a unique shape, while the surface is usually scuffed as horses always run around. And I blindly assumed that the signature glaze of the material looked too luxury and flashy to fit into the mood of MOTO.

As our relationship with tanneries got deepened, however, they began to accept our orders and have developed non-glazed horse-hide that looked totally different from the existing one. The experience has completely changed my mindset. Now I find the glamorous glaze of the material that I didn’t like when I was young rather attractive as I grew up, because it gradually brings about the advantages of horse-hide leather over time. I’m now so much in love with the material, probably in response to my past dislike.

The samples of horse-hide leather gathered from carefully-selected prestigious tanneries
in various countries, including Italy, the U.S. and Japan.

If leather products couldn’t
make the users happy,
there is no point
in making things out of leather.

“In this modern world, there are a number of low-cost yet functional materials to choose from. So, people may not pick leather goods if they couldn’t find any unique charms or values in it. At the time when Japanese department stores had their heyday, they didn’t accept leather goods with scuffs, stains, individual differences, color bleeding and so on. Therefore, tanneries of the time provided heavily processed and coated leather. Because all the natural beauty of leather disappeared by doing so, many consumers began to avoid leather products with a thought that there was no point in making things out of real leather as long as they didn’t look like so. That was the reason why many wallets from famous brands became less decorative and simpler to emphasize the quality and texture of real leather.

Wallets are not just a fashionable accessory, but also a tool to carry cash. So, usability is most important in the design. As leather seems to have few practical advantages, products made of the material have to be something warm, impressive and appealing to make people pick it up. I think that’s the thing we always have to bear in mind, and the biggest reason why people have loved leather.”