Alte Art is relatively unknown, even though one founder is one of the pioneers of the thriving Japanese bespoke shoe scene, and the brand has been around for almost two decades. And despite the fact that they create very well-made bespoke shoes, and also some of the most inspiring and fascinating art shoes I have ever seen.
In the bespoke shoe world, there are several actors who are not only attracted by the craftsmanship, the challenge of fit and general shoe design, but who are also attracted by taking the latter to new levels. People who have shoes as a creative channel. Noriyuki Misawa who I have written about earlier is a good example, Christophe Corthay another, Clematis Ginza a third. Alte Art is another such example.
Behind the brand are the married couple Osamu Egawa and Mami Tsurukasi. Near the tourist attraction Tokyo Skytree, almost in the shadow of the 634 meter high TV tower on a small street with residential buildings, there’s an insignificant small place behind glass doors, where the least insignificant shoes you can imagine are found. Here you have shoes that contain a miniature LP player in one toe and a speaker in the other, shoes with functioning violins built in, shoes with self-playing small pianos in the toe, boots crossed with a harp, real boats (which can float), and so on. The creativity is huge, and a lot of it is obviously about music, since both Osamu and Mami are great music lovers, not least of American and British 60-70s rock.
– We have come up with so many different ideas over the years, and realised many of them. But lately it has been more calm, the ideas have slowed down a bit, says Osamu Egawa.
See a film showing how the shoes work below:
Because they have been around for a long time. Osamu was co-founding the brand Guild of Crafts in 1996 with Chihiro Yamaguchi, and was one of the pioneers of the new wave of bespoke shoemakers in Japan. He left 18 years ago, and together with Mami Tsurukasi he started Alte Art. The art shoes are just a hobby, the everyday work is as traditional bespoke shoemakers. Although the creativity shines through here as well, looking at the samples that stand on the shelves there are some traditional models, but many are their own types of models and gorgeous, different designs.
– Most of our customers like this type of shoes, slightly special but still wearable. That’s why they found us, says Mami Tsurukasi.
The shoes are really well made, both closing and making are on a high level, often with nice details such as contrasting sole stitching. You can see some similarities with Guild of Crafts, even if Alte Art have a style of its own.
Production is small. The couple makes between 40-50 pairs a year, all are full bespoke. The price level is impressively low, hand-stitched full bespoke with machine-sewn sole stitch and square waist starts at only about €1,150 (140,000 yen), fully handmade with a bevelled waist starting at €1,800 (220,000 yen). A very interesting maker in other words, which deserves more attention than they have received so far.
Film showing the piano playing:
Japan has many excellent makers that are unknown to the world. Thunder March told me that he considers Kiyo Uda’s craftsmanship is on par with Yohei Fukuda, or even better.
sg: Absolutely, though Alte Art is one of those who are surprisingly unknown also to many in Japan. Kiyo is one of many Japanese makers who do excellent shoes. I would not say they are better than Fukuda, but some are on pair, sure.