Tell us a little about the Japanese client versus the European client. What are his particularities? What does he order the most?
We have few European clients at the moment. So it is hard to compare the Japanese client to the European client. As far as I can tell about our few European clients, they regard our shoes as an art and have respect for our shoemaking technique very much. They trust the quality of Japanese products. So they entrust us with the details of their order. On the other hand, Japanese clients have a great longing for European bespoke culture. In general, Japanese clients are particularly interested about the small details of the shoes.
Despite that, I can find more similarities rather than differences between the Japanese client and the European client. Regardless of region, our clients chose us/our shoes from many bespoke shoemakers/brands in the world. Both clients love classic shoes having both elegance and modernity. They have confidence in themselves, and thus they don’t require strong personality shoes.
Lately more and more young people schooled in Europe return to Japan in order to become shoemakers. How is this “repatriation” seen through the eyes of a Japanese shoemaker? What makes them return home?
The shoe/shoemaking has its origin in Europe. So it is natural that young people want to go to Europe to study shoemaking. It is the same with me. They want to touch bespoke or European culture besides learning shoemaking. Some of them wanted to stay in Europe as a professional shoemaker.
But there are limitations in staying/working in a foreign country, not as a student, but as a professional. I know the following case, when some famous European bespoke shoemaker sends all the materials (including the last) to the shoemaker (he came back from Europe) in Japan. After completion of the shoes, they are sent back to Europe, even if the shoes were ordered by a Japanese customer. It is a bit ironical, isn’t it?
Some young people return to Japan according to their plan. They might aim to become a professional shoemaker. It is a great but also very difficult challenge. They have to get over all kind of difficulties by themselves. But these challenges of young people give me courage to go forward.
I wish all young people would find their place where they can make full use of their skills and passion in the shoe business.
What leathers do you work with? Describe a little the process for us…
We use all sorts of leather for upper shoe that come from England, France, Germany, Italy and USA. These leathers are box calf, full grain aniline calf, suede, cordovan, crocodile, lizard and so on. We have some stocks for customers in the workshop, but sometimes we prepare other particular leathers according to customer’s request through our business connections.
Do you work with in-house made shoe lasts?
I am making individual shoe lasts for our customers in the workshop every day. We also have base lasts for MTO. I developed their original last. I of course have to ask the bulk last manufacturer to grade its last.
What is your favorite model?
I love all types of shoe models. But if I had to choose only one, I would choose the gillie type model that has loops on the face instead of eyelets. There are some gillie models in our collection. Some customers might regard them as the icon of HIRO YANAGIMACHI.
What plans do you have on a medium term?
Until now we have been taking shoe orders only at the workshop. But from the latter of this year, I will go outside the workshop to meet new customers. That includes oversea countries/places. I intend to hold oversea trunk shows within a few years. We have launched the international web site to introduce HIRO YANAGIMACHI to the non-Japanese speakers as the first step to our next trial.
To achieve those plans, I have to make preparations to spread our capacity of making shoes. They include trainings of young shoemakers.
What is your favorite word?
What is your least favorite word?
What turns you on (creatively, spiritually or emotionally)?
I respect all kind of artists and artisans, such as painters, photographers, craftsmen and designers, who have strong will and make efforts to create something new. When I see antiques or vintage products that were made in the no-machine era, I really wonder at their beauty and at the wisdom of the predecessors. I can feel a strong passion in them and I never feel that in the mass products nowadays. I am very impressed when I touch the possibility of handwork.
What turns you off?
Selfish attitude or behavior that lacks consideration for others. Products or work that don’t contain anything of value, but only the thought of moneymaking.
What sound or noise do you love?
The murmur of a small stream, a refreshing breeze and brilliant green leaves.
What sound or noise do you hate?
The sound of my alarm clock in the sleepy mornings.
What profession would you not like to do?
A lawyer. If I were a lawyer, I would have to face the problems between people every day. I respect lawyers, but I would not like to be one.
If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
Did you enjoy?
See also Hiro Yanagimachi (I)