Yohei Fukuda is one of the most acclaimed Japanese bespoke shoemakers today, and many shoe interested men have drooled over his pictures in various social media etc. Including myself. Now I also got to experience them in reality, here’s a buyer’s guide to the brand with my order of a pair of full brogues as framework.
The today 35-year-old Yohei Fukuda grew up in the city of Toyama, and after high school he moved to England to learn English. Yohei was interested in fashion and was persuaded by a friend to accompany him to the Tresham Institute in Northampton, a relatively technically oriented shoemaker school. After that he worked for a time for George Cleverley and Edward Green’s former bespoke department, before returning home to Japan to start his own brand in 2007. Since then he has established himself as one of the great masters of the acclaimed Japanese shoe scene.
Yohei Fukuda has is situated in the quite classy neighborhood Shibuya in central Tokyo. On the second floor of a higher building is his showroom, two floors up from that is the workshop. In both it’s very clean and orderly. He has help from two apprentices who do making and a highly recognized freelancer who do the closing. Together, they make no more than about 60 pairs a year.
His background in England is clearly visible in his shoes, he has taken the old British style from the early 1900s and modernized it with, for example, museum calf leathers and variations of patina.
Offerings and prices
Yohei Fukuda works with four different levels of orders, where all shoes are made to the same standard, the differences are modifications of models and lasts. The models in the Heritage Collection are all so-called balmorals with larger pieces of leather, hence they cost more. All prices include VAT, which if you are from outside of Japan will be deducted before payment. He accepts international credit cards. For more information, or to book an appointment if you visit Tokyo, contact email@example.com.
– Master Styling (Made to Order). Select model, leather, last (classic round toe or chiseled), and details like the waist (bevelled or fiddle waist), heel (square, tapered, Yohei Fukuda heel which is an asymmetric variant), etc. Price for Classic Collection models about €2 300 (280 000 yen), for Heritage the price is around €2 450 (300 000 yen). Lasted shoe trees are included.
– Master Fitting (semi-bespoke/Made to Measure). As above, but here the baccs lasts are modified to the customer’s feet. The price is the same as for the Master Styling above with additional price of around €50 (6 000 yen) for each modification that needs to be done. Total price of the order will be set after you tried on test shoes and the modifications needed are pinpointed. Lasted shoe trees are included (the same ones as for the basic lasts used for Master Styling is used). No fitting required.
– Master Scratch (limited bespoke). The standard models are still used and prices are based on the same as the Master styling, but the last is fully adapted to the customer. One can say that it is bespoke in terms of fit, MTO regarding choice of model. Here test shoes are made and at least one fitting is required. Additions of €500 (60 000 yen) for the creation of lasts, €250 for lasted shoe trees (3 000 yen), which makes for total price of €3 000 (370 000 yen) for the Classic series, €3 150 (390 000 yen) for Heritage.
– Bespoke (full bespoke). A completely personal last is made, and you can choose any design of the model, leather, details and so on. At least one fitting is required.Base price of €2 450 (300 000 yen), €500 (60 000 yen) for last manufacturing , €325 (40 000 yen) for pattern making, €250 (30 000 yen) for the shoe trees, bringing the total price starting at around €3 500 (430 000 yen).
Yohei Fukuda has two lasts that he works with for MTO and as the basis for the semi bespoke/MTM. They are based on the same base last, one has a classic round toe, the other more square and chiseled.
Yohei Fukuda has ten standard models, five in the Classic series and as many in the Heritage line. We begin with the Classic Collection:
And now the Heritage Collection:
Please note that this is only sample models, you have a free choice of last, leather types, color, etc. you want, and he also has a lot of other options to choose from in addition to what the shoes above is made in. If it’s calf leather or suede the price is the same, for exotic leather price varies depending on type.
You can only order shoes from Yohei Fukuda in person, which of course limits the possibilities greatly since with the current situation one must visit Tokyo or one of the few trunk shows he does elsewhere in Japan, or abroad where he currently only visit The Armoury in Hong Kong. Since the interest in Yohei Fukuda is large, and more substantial information of what he offers and the ordering process is difficult to find for those who do not read Japanese, I feel that this type of buyer’s guide still is relevant. And also for all who will never order a pair it can be an interesting read at least. One can also hope that Yohei Fukuda will visit Europe and the US for trunk shows in the future.
I visited Yohei Fukuda’s showroom in Tokyo to make my order. I had pre-determined that I wanted to make a semi bespoke/MTM order, Master Fitting as he calls it. It started with me trying a test shoe in size UK10, to get a picture of how my feet was in that. It proved to be too narrow in width, but quite okay in length. Yohei squeezed and felt to get a picture of what needed to be done. Then he measured my feet very carefully, and also photographed them in different angles.
After that we sat down at a table and Yohei showed various bundles with leather swatches for me to look through. I wanted a shoe in burgundy, and chose an aniline dyed in a burgundy shade. The model I chose was the full brogue Willow on a modified version of his chiseled last, however, I chose to do it as a faux full brogue, or imitation brogue as it is sometimes called, where wingtip- and heel cap stitching and brogue pattern are made in the middle of the leather pieces, so to speak. No wholecut however, the shoe is made of three leather pieces
Yohei Fukuda has as a sort of form and illustrations of all the different choices you have, and among these can be mentioned that I chose a sole stitch at 12 SPI (Stitches Per Inch), bevelled waist (you can choose between bevelled and fiddle waist), Yohei Fukuda heel (a kind of asymmetrical tapered heel, you can also choose swuare or completely tapered), normal width of the welt, and sunken metal toe taps (for which an additional charge applies). A pretty and elegant full brogue, one can summarize it as. You also select details like how the sole is painted, and if/how the brass nails should be placed under the heel, and more. It is a very thorough process even for a semi bespoke order, same as for bespoke, and it all takes a bit over an hour.
Yohei Fukuda and his associates produce no more than about 60 pairs of shoes a year (for a full bespoke order it can take about 150 hours if you include the entire process of measuring, last making, manufacturing of sample shoes, potential last modification and then final production). The delivery times they try to keep is six months for Master Styling and Master Fitting, and 12 months for the Master Scratch and Bespoke, but with the interest in his shoes constantly growing, it can be longer than that.
Yohei Fukuda found that I (as I know) have quite tricky feet, and was actually a little hesitant to make a semi bespoke/MTM without having a fitting, he would rather see that I would make Master Scratch with fitting shoe. But since I don’t know when I will be back in Japan, it could be already this fall, but just as well in three years or perhaps even longer, and if he would not come to Europe before then it would be a very long wait. Therefore, I chose to go with a gamble, and be prepared to have to make modifications on the first pairs either at a cobbler here at home, or that they are sent back to Yohei (which is not entirely unusual to do not only for semi bespoke but also for full bespoke, happened to orders from several different manufacturers for me through the years). It was a pretty substantial modification of the original lasts that Yohei had to do, so they essentially became a bespoke last but without a fitting shoe, for the reasons mentioned above. The price landed partly because of this at about €2 600.
As I just mentioned there had to be done a lot especially with adding material to the lasts on my pair, and since it’s difficult to work with a last when it is a lot of leather fitting pieces on them Yohei Fukuda first made the modifications and built it up wherever needed, and then sent the lasts to his last factory where they duplicated them and he got a pair of last made entirely of wood in the correct shape, so to speak (one can of course continue to change them, but then you have a base in wood and doesn’t need to struggle with leather everywhere).
The actual production of the shoes are then made in the same way for all his various kinds of orders, so these are made to the same level as his full bespoke. Both hand welted and with a handmade sole stitch, the heel stiffener goes forward under the arch, and he makes a very elegant version of blind welt at the waist. One detail that says a lot about the ambition that they have in the production is that they make a special kind of braiding of the small stitches made as reinforcement at the bottom of the lace opening on oxford shoes. It was common back in the days, but very few do this today. The common stitches used nowadays takes a couple of minutes to do, when Fukuda apprentices do the braiding element it takes about an hour. The function of the two variants is basically the same, but there are other values involved here.
The shoes comes in a fabric dressed box with two fine shoe bags and cloth, extra shoe laces, and as a bonus a jar of Saphir Medaille d’Or shoe cream and a tin of wax polish. The lasted shoe trees are hinged and made of obeche wood, which is very light weight. They are also very well polished from the start, with spit shine made on both the toe and heel. In the pictures below, I have not done anything.
The fit is fortunately quite good, I think it’s the best first pair of semi bespoke or bespoke shoes I have had. It’s really just one thing worth mentioning, and that is that there’s too much space behind the inner ball and and the forward part of the arch, so to speak, especially on the right shoe. This is a classic problem manufacturers have with my feet, since I have hallux valgus issues in combination with a high instep and arch, it’s required that the last is curved inwards quite substantially. It usually requires one or even two orders before manufacturers get this sorted well. However this is nothing that makes it uncomfortable, especially since the support is fine further back under the arch, the problem is mainly that there’s excess leather which will be creasing. But as I said, in general, only very small adjustments that will need to be made for the next pair, so it was very nice to see that the gamble was succesful. It’s actually quite amazing that my wide, ugly feet can be “re-shaped” to such a beautiful last shape
The color of the shoes is a little darker than I expected and got the impression of from his leather swatches, it’s simply a darker skin, but there’s nothing I see as problematic as I appreciate the deep, dark burgundy tone much.
The quality level of the workmanship is, as expected, extremely high. The closing is very precise, and the welt with the sole stitching marked with a stitch prick is very well made, the heel is built with beautifully horizontally placed rows of leather distances, and so on. Most impressed, however, am i of the waist, which as you can see below is slim, elegantly bevelled, but also look extra closely at how thin it is on the edge, where the welt is placed well under the insole and then covered by a very thin piece of the outsole. Was hard to capture on picture unfortunately, but I did what I could.
When I do my best to find flaws the only thing I find is a small nick on the outside of the left heel, that’s it. That a pair of shoes like this cost a lot of money is undeniable, but if you take into account the work behind them and what you get, it’s actually very price worthy.