Monday, October 01, 2012

Paperchain interview no 2 - Elisabeth Dunker interviews Megumi Pedersen

Hello everyone, it's time for my second Paperchain Interview. When I asked Elisabeth who she'd like to interview she told me she was curious about a Japanese curator/shop owner living in Denmark called Megumi Pedersen. This immediately struck a chord with me as I know there is a real connection between Japanese and Scandinavian design and it had always interested me too, so we got the ball rolling. Here is Elisabeth's interview with Megumi...

Lille Du ~ By Fribert ~ Megumi & Gustav

"Something that has become more common in the latest years (at least in the "design context" where I spend much time) is the love of playful eclecticism (the Japanese book company Paumes are experts in the field). The aesthetics I'm talking about are personal, creative and allowing. A little bit of this and a little bit of that. Often a big appreciation and respect for craftsmanship and love of natural materials. But also for cuteness, colors and different material. In these aesthetics there are no rules, it’s all about imagination. You mix various eras and styles with each other in a unique and original way. It's mixing rather than matching.
A woman who in my eyes has a good hand and eye in this subject is Megumi. A Japanese girl living in Denmark, who focuses on the connection between Japanes and Scandinavian design (obviously more than clean lines and minimalism today). Megumi runs the lovely shop and a distribution channel of Scandinavian brands in Japan - Scandinavian Connection."

I was born and grown up in central part of Tokyo, and had been shy, hard-working girl who loves beautiful things. When I was small, I loved drawing and making story books and I gave my little books to my mother and grandmother.
My dream as a little girl was to make books for children.
I have tried to pay for my own education to music school but that was very hard in Japan, as education is very expensive and you need to have your parent’s support. My father believed I should study something practical and that was law.

My relationship to Denmark has started when I was a small girl. My father went to Denmark for a congress and he sent me beautiful post card. I remember how I adored the post card.
Many years later, just as a coincidence, my friend brought me to a Danish café in Tokyo and there I got a job as a waitress during my university days. And also as a coincidence, my other friend recommended me to apply for an interesting company called A.P Moller Maersk. After I got degree of law, then I applied for the job as a new graduate, and then I found out that was a Danish company!
It offered international education and possibility of working as an expat abroad to young employees. I grabbed the chance as I wanted to see the world.
Several years later, I applied to work in the headquarters in Copenhagen, then got a job as an expat. While I was in Los Angeles by business trip, in a restaurant I met a Danish man just by coincidence and he later became my husband.
Yes, so many coincidence related to Denmark which is still a bit mystery for me. So here I am living in Denmark!:-)
I am honored that Elisabeth love my style…thank you..!
My idea of making a small shop happened when I saw beautiful, nostalgic yet cool shops in Copenhagen. I fell in love to hand-knitted children’s clothes, patch-worked cushions, embroideries, vintage toys, porcelain with Scandinavian colors.
And when I got my little boy Gustav, I became even more passionate on beautiful handmade treasures.
I was also impressed of Scandinavian society, its willingness to preserve nature, how children are allowed to be children.
This way of regarding life is in the designs and the products. I felt more and more that I would like to introduce not only beauty of the products in Scandinavia but also its ideas of life and society. 
During my maternity leave from the Danish company, my husband Jacob had to continue studying in a little city called Svendborg, which is far away from Copenhagen. We had to find a way to make our life possible. He has graduated school after 6 years of education when Gustav was 1 year’s old, but then he had to work in ship as a navigator and engineer and was difficult for me to work and live as half single-mother in abroad without my family to help.
So we came up with the idea that I should have a flexible job. I also noticed my passion on beautiful small things I found in Scandinavia and ideas and life behind it.  Combining all of these factors, we made our company when Gustav was 6 months old and the shop became quickly popular and we became very busy. 
Jacob decided to quit a job as an officer for a while and started to work full time at our company. At the same time, we have received requests from shops in Japan and also Scandinavian brands that they would like us to distribute, as we could communicate to both Japanese and Scandinavian. So it came naturally that we started to make distribution of Scandinavian brands in Japan.
We have been also exporting Scandinavian vintage furniture in container to Japan. During this business, we got a good partner company in Japan.

When the crisis of nuclear power plant in Fukushima happened in Japan, I also started to get a passion that I would like to introduce how Denmark has developed its sustainable energy, as not many Japanese people are aware how much potential and possibility sustainable energy brings.
Although we are not at all an energy company, I would like to continue this activity as I feel that I can even say this is an obligation for me as being one of a few Japanese who is living in Denmark. There are so many Japanese people who loves Scandinavian designs, but there are not enough of people who knows about how society is in Scandinavia. Together with our partner company, we are selling a book about how Denmark became leading country in sustainable energy, written by Tomoko Kitamura, a Japanese woman living in Lolland island in Denmark.

We are now trying to combine and strengthen the cooperation between our Japanese partner and us, and move steps forward, by making a joint venture in Japan.
We would like to bring the best of two worlds together.

Bock ~ Pernittengryn ~ Fabulous Goose

The sustainability, consideration on preservation of the nature and the welfare of all living beings has been highly respected and developed through generations.
I believe we also had this way of aesthetics in Japan and it still exists.
But in some point we have tried so hard to develop the country and gained and lost many things. It is so much about competition and looking short-time future.
Japanese people understand and appreciate Scandinavian aesthetics as we also have that in ourselves, although it is not easy to embody it in life.

I do miss living in Tokyo so much, as I have always been a big city girl.  But as a mother, I appreciate and feel happy to live in Denmark, where children are more allowed to be children, not under too much pressure of competition, and grow up in nice air and environment close to nature, and is given opportunities of education that they wish.

I wish to introduce not only the products and enjoyment of using the products, but more of these Scandinavian aesthetics, ideas and society to Japanese people.
I love both countries and my hope is to contribute to make the world a better place by something I do, as a person who knows different culture and society.

In our web shop, our main customers are Japanese. Sometimes other country’s people visit our web shop and we would love to make our web shop in English version, but we haven’t able to spend time yet …but it is in our plan.
Our distribution is also in Japan.
I also sometimes work as a coordinator for Scandinavian company looking for opportunities in Japan.
I am surprised how much miscommunications between Japanese and Danish companies can be, even though there are more people in Japan who can speak English. It is not only about language, but understanding each other’s culture. 
We also have a wish to introduce beautiful Japanese products to Scandinavian people in future. 

It comes naturally… I see things and fall in love. And when I learn the will and people behind, then I get more inspired and motivated.

When we started, we were very small company which has just started.
But we met wonderful people who has trusted on us and given chances to us. I got inspired by people behind great products, and that motivates me to go forward with the brand.

The difficulties and challenges are the same with any other small company owners.
You have to have a will to go-on, and make everything by yourself. Sometimes I wish I have more time or two or three of myself working with me! But the great thing is that when you achieve something, it is so rewarding. And also I feel so grateful to wonderful people I met.
It is like living life in a deeper way, both difficulties and happiness. 
Otto Kajak ~ ~ Liebe

Yes, definitely. I can see people are more into sustainability and quality.
Balancing price and quality is always a challenge. When you want to sell volume, then you have to make it affordable.
That has always been a challenge for us too, especially when we are small company. But when people understand quality and brand, then people would pay for it.

I am not a designer, I never learnt how to design. But I love to take photos, and I have ideas in my head and heart.
So I talk and draw the idea to Jacob’s good old friend Jeppe, who has started web-design when we started our company. He has developed himself too, and now he is working as a professional graphic designer. He still works with us when we need new designs.

About our logo and all designs for distribution, it is Begitte Lynge Andersen from who designed it.
I love her design and she has inspired me so much.

Oh I have many..
I love Liebe, Crème de la Crème à la Edgar, Musahar, Louise Kragh, Fabulous Goose, We do wood…
They all make personal, warm, but also cool products with thoughts behind.

I also love organic cosmetics and it is one of my favorite subject now. In Tokyo, I was struggling with my allergy. But ever since I moved to Denmark and also got to know more about organic products and started using more of them, I can feel my allergy is better. I would like to learn more about it.

Minä Perhonen’s site is where I love to visit. They have page in both Japanese and English.

They send out a newsletter, although written in Japanese, there are beautiful pictures and sometimes poetry, sometimes few lines not about sales information but  about life.  It makes me stop and think about what I wish in life.
The pictures brings me atmosphere of Tokyo. And that makes me warm and feel home. 

Mina Perhonen

Thank you to Elisabeth and Megumi.


  1. Wonderful interview! Extra great because Megumi is new to me. Love her aesthetic and thoughtful approach.

  2. Than you Megumi, and Franscesca :)
    This was all very inspiring.
    Looking forward to read the next paper chain interview!

  3. Love these interviews - looking forward to see where it will take us next :)

  4. I'm loving these interviews, so interesting! x

  5. Great inerview- thank you all three- Megumi is new to me too, and what an interesting story she has- xx

  6. Thank you so much again for the interview, Franscesca and Elisabeth...! And thank you so much for sweet comments :-) I am so happy and encouraged..! Megumi


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