“Made in Japan” is often synonymous with high-quality products made with care, but this is not often the case when it comes to cat furniture. Chiharu Murakami, founder of Giselle and Momo, shares, “In Japan, there are no official guidelines about disclosing the materials used to make cat products, which is one of the reasons why it’s hard to find good-quality products for cats.”
This dearth of good-quality cat products was what inspired this lifelong neko-suki (cat lover) to start her brand. “I believe cat owners want to know the type of materials and the quality control that go into each product as they want to buy only the safest and best products for their pets,” Murakami says.
As such, the products at Giselle and Momo are all manufactured in Japan by specialist manufacturers and craftsmen. Since the products are not produced in large quantities, there can be greater attention spent on quality. “To me, it’s also important to factor in where the products are stored and delivered as cats are super sensitive about smells,” Murakami adds. “It’s important that the products are manufactured, packed and transported in a smoking-free environment.”
Murakami’s childhood was one filled with happy memories of cats moving in and out of her home in Osaka, having grown up in a family of cat lovers. When she moved to Tokyo for work, she longed to have her cats and finally got her wish in the form of Momota, a Munchkin cat, and Giselle, a Russian Blue. While she was delighted to spend time with her cats, she was increasingly dissatisfied with the quality of the cat products available in Japan.
“Being a crazy cat mum, I did a lot of research into the different types of food, toys and paraphernalia for my cats but always found them lacking. There was always something wrong, either with the design, the quality or even the colour of the products,” Murakami says. “I decided that the only way was for me to start my own business to create the type of products I knew other cat owners would want to have.”
Murakami left behind her career in the banking industry and dove headfirst into learning all there was to know about manufacturing cat lifestyle products. It was not an easy process. Since she didn’t have a previous track record, she had to work doubly hard to prove to manufacturers that she was serious about her vision of creating high-quality cat products. It was only when she encountered a salesperson from furniture company Oak Village that she got her lucky break.
“The salesperson is a fellow cat owner, and I discovered we shared very similar thoughts about the cat products available in the market,” Murakami shares. “That was how the idea for Skelton House slowly took shape.”
Today, almost a year since Giselle & Momo first launched, the Skelton House is one of their best-selling items. If you are a cat lover or shopping for one, learn more about the must-have items from the brand below.
Designed for cats to sleep, jump and play around in, this wooden structure is created using a special woodworking technique known as “Hozo-Gumi”, which does not make use of a single nail. Known for its long-lasting durability, this special technique features in many shrines and temples in Kyoto and Nara. “Because it is so durable, you can rest assured your cats will be safe climbing up and down the structure,” Murakami says.
Giselle & Momo carries a range of hand-knitted accessories, including a bed, mat, and the best-selling cat collar. All the hand-knitted accessories are created by the “Tohoku Crochet Village” in Iwate Prefecture. This small workshop was set up by a group of mothers after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami eradicated many of their homes and livelihoods. Each cat collar is painstakingly hand-knitted by these women, made using only organic cotton and dyed with natural fruits. “These cat collars are very soft and very safe, even for cats that have allergies,” Murakami says.
In 2021, Murakami will also be introducing a few more items to the Giselle & Momo collection. “Customers can look forward to various items in the new year, including a ceramic water stand made by pottery craftsmen from Okayama, as well as a variety of decorative items that cat owners can use to “dress up” their Skelton House. The brand will also be launching a series of original charms made of semi-precious stones for the cat collars, along with the newly launched stencil collar that can be customised with your cat’s name.
“We are looking forward to our collaborations with different Japanese craftsmen,” Murakami says. “Right now, traditional Japanese techniques and materials are only used to make products for human beings, but I’d like to see such craftsmanship extend to cat products. For cat lovers like us, cats are not just pets – they are our family.”
Photo from: Giselle & Momo