Photo by Mark Cho / Text by Mark Cho / Yohei Fukuda
At The Armoury, we strongly believe in classic style. What makes it so interesting is that there are many different regional variations of it, such as English, Neapolitan, Florentine. In the case of shoes, we actually work with two different bespoke shoemakers, one is Yohei Fukuda and the other is Koji Suzuki. I love Koji's work and I think it is an excellent representation of classic Italian shoes. At the same time, I also love Yohei's work, and I think it is an excellent representation of classic English shoes. It is impossible to declare any one region's style better than another and I am glad to be able to offer choices to our customers that best suit their personal style!
What are you wearing
- Bespoke Double breasted jacket (Holland & sherry victory) by Vick Tailor
- Bespoke trousers (Eurotex - Brighton) by Vick Tailor
- Shirt (Acorn) by Bespoke Tailor Dittos
- Tie by Bespoke Tailor Dittos
- Briefcase by Yohei Fukuda
- Bespoke Shoes by Yohei Fukuda
1. What is your favorite part of the shoemaking process? e.g. the lastmaking? the fitting? the design?
My favorite part of the shoe making process is discussing about the shoes we are going to create with the customer. Our job is not merely making shoes. We always make sure to take enough time to talk to every one of our customers, so that we can recommend shoes that match each person's lifestyle. No matter how great the shoes look, if they do not suit the wearer, that's like putting the cart before the horse. Also, when I make shoes, I imagine the customer: what is he wearing? where is he at? what sort of fun thing is he up to? I believe that shoes are just a part of a whole person, to be happy and comfortable.
The shoes that I pursue are the best of ordinary. Our shoes are meant to be worn for a long time, so they would not be trendy. However, we stick to the classic so it never goes outdated. I wish our shoes to be life long partners for our customers.
2. If you could only have a selection of 3 styles of shoes in your wardrobe, what would they be?
- Black punched cap Oxford
- Dark Brown Semi-Brogue Oxford
- Tobacco suede Chukka Boots
I believe that these 3 pairs are essential for every gentleman.
The 4th and 5th shoes could be Apron-front Derby (U-tip), Monk Strap, Side, Elastic, Loafers...up to each person's taste and style.
3. You are very skilled with your hands and you have mentioned in our conversations that you are interested in other crafts, such as watchmaking, as well. Where did you learn this appreciation for working with your hands?
I think that there's a strong influence from my grandfather. In my childhood, I remember that my brother and I helped our grandfather with gardening or traditional events on the weekends and holidays. Our grandfather was very creative and loved working with hands. For example, he would curve out the corridor wall and put glass in to create a corner to see Koi fish outside from inside the house. He loved to entertain others like that. Perhaps that aspect influenced me in my current work.
Also, since I grew up in the country, we were playing in the nature most of the time, so it was normal for me to make something that we do not have. Even now I still make knick-knacks for myself sometimes.
My brother is a high-fashion jewelry maker and I make classical shoes. Although high fashion and classic style seem to be the opposite, there are many things in common and we are very close brothers.
As I have been involved in hand crafts, not only I have gained experience and techniques but also I started to look at things with a new perspective. Even for things other than shoes, I can feel the character and thoughts of the maker by just looking at them. That's also a reason why I love hand crafted things.
A very simple pair of Black Oxfords in Northampton Shoe Museum lead me to this work of shoemaking. Made about 100 years ago, these pair had a beauty that I had never seen before, and they impressed me with their powerful beings. I am determined to pass this beautiful art to the next generation.