INTERVIEW: Dory Isaacs, co-founder of TOKYObay

TOKYO bay, founded in 1991, is a watch company based in San Francisco, CA that makes a variety of fashion watches. The company is the brain child of Dory Isaacs and Jun Kobayashi. Dory hails from the UK, and Jun is from Tokyo but both settled and met in San Francisco. The company's very name is a portmanteau of Tokyo and the Bay Area. The watches tend to feature Japanese Miyota Quartz movements, Italian leather bands, and mineral glass faces. They have also recently introduced a "Made in USA" collection. We recently and the chance to speak with Dory Isaacs. 

LC: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you started TOKYObay?
Originally from England, I went to Art College to study fashion design with a goal to move to London and work in the fashion design industry.  The path to that goal took a turn in a totally different direction when I moved from England to Canada and met my business partner, Jun Kobayashi who is originally from Tokyo. He owned a retail store importing unique products from Japan and we both recognized an opportunity and a gap in the market for well designed, fashion conscious accessories like watches. This new trend was started by Swatch who paved the way for design companies like TOKYObay to bring watches into the fashion accessories world through independent gift and clothing stores. Once we moved to San Francisco we fine-tuned our look by drawing inspiration directly from our different backgrounds, cultures and favorite design eras. The result is a fusion of East meets West design.

LC: Where does your passion for watches come from?
DI: I have always loved the design process – from the beginning of an idea to the final product coming through the door. We are constantly trying to think of unique ways and treatments to apply to the watch & accessory line that has a certain feeling or sensibility. We recently finished our new Indigo Collection of watches launching for SS’15 which uses authentically dyed indigo fabric resourced from Osaka on watch straps.

LC: Where can someone find your watches and other products in the brick and mortar world?
DI: We are available in a range of independent boutiques, museum stores and selected department stores. Some stores include MartinPatrick3 in Minneapolis, Rare Device and Uko here in San Francisco, LA Philharmonic gift store, Nordstrom and Anthropologie in the UK to name a few.

LC: Can you walk us through how your products go from design to manufacture?
DI: The design process starts with collecting inspiration and influences from many sources- fashion, art, Japanese or American textiles and patterns, vintage detailing – and coming up with a concept. We are constantly collecting materials and components that could go together in the right way. Once we have a few directions we want to move ahead with, we meet and work with our watch manufacturers in creating a rendering with accurate scale and measurements. We have a history of over 15 years working with our main manufacturer which helps the process. Once we have an approved CAD drawing we work to get a first round of samples made up. These samples will then be tweaked slightly to then move ahead with a final production.

LC: There seems to be a new revival for men’s watches. What are your thoughts on the latest trends driving your industry?
DI: Yes there is a definite growth in the way men are approaching accessories in general, watches included. Items like bracelets, key chains, scarves and bags are being integrated into many men’s focused fashion businesses as a fast growing market, including our own. Most men own multiple watches now ranging from the status timepiece to the casual every day look which wasn’t the case in the past. We designed the new Obi Watch Roll as a result of this trend. Many more men’s specific independent and online sales channels are opening as a result of men looking for more individual ways to express their style. Watches are a part of this growth and a detail that finishes off a look so we are always looking for new ways to push the line forward.

LC: What other brands or products inspire you?
DI: I have always loved textiles and prints so designers like Dries Van Noten, Miuccia Prada & Paul Smith are always on my radar and pushing the envelope. Companies like Shinola and Toms bring great products to the market while giving back to the community. I’m also a big fan of vintage furniture design and interiors so color combinations, shapes and detailing of various things I find are always inspiring the way I design.