One of the many Japanese bespoke shoemakers who’ve made an impact in recent years is Yuigo Hayano and his brand Bespoke Shoe Works. He has almost 15 years in the industry though, working both in factories and in bespoke workshops, and have trained both in Japan and England. His very well-made bespoke shoes are often called among the best classic British bespoke shoes you can get – just made in Japan.
British dress shoes in general, and bespoke in particular, are sort of seen as the foundation of The Dress Shoe with capital D. They are essentially timeless, don’t stand out yet ooze with class, and even if they aren’t everyones favourite very few dislike them – like how some men and women from back in the days that were seen as absolute beauties 100 years ago are just as beautiful in our eyes today. To really achieve this type of footwear is not easy, even if you straight out copy some originals, one still need to achieve perfection in the details and fill the shoes with some sort of soul. One who’ve managed is Yuigo Hayano, the man behind Bespoke Shoe Works. If you look at the photos here, you can probably picture old bespoke shoes made by Nicolaus Tuczek, Foster & Son or some other of the old classic London firms. It goes through everything from welt finishing to the logo plate on the shoe trees.
Yuigo Hayano is 40 years old today. He lives in Komozawa a bit southwest of central Tokyo, and close by a few floors up in a regular apartment building he has his workshop. It’s located in a small one room apartment, things are clean and tidy as often is the case in Japanese workshops, but no-one can mistake this for being a place where someone lives – here one only makes shoes. There’s one higher workbench with a vise, a lower one with awls and edge irons placed beside it, sewing and skiving machines are placed along a wall, lasts hang on another one, and on a shelf stands fitting shoes and works in progress.
– I make all steps myself, from lasts to finishing, this means I have to have a lot of things here. Both when it comes to materials and equipment, says Yuigo Hayano.
When Yuigo grew up he loved making things. Artistic creations, random objects, various creative stuff. In highschool he gained an interest in fashion. This then merged into a growing fascination for shoemaking. He started studying at the Taito Bunto shoemaking school, one of several proper schools of shoemaking in Tokyo which teaches all areas of shoe manufacturing including design.
– After school I started working at a small factory in Asakusa [the shoemaking district of Tokyo], who made Blake stitched shoes. I was there during weekdays, then weekends I spent at another more specialised shoemaking courses with the bespoke maker Naoto Yokoyama who runs Saion, says Yuigo.
After doing this for a year Yokoyama asked if Yuigo Hayano wanted to come work for him. Yuigo began working with closing, pattern making and repairs, and in the evenings he trained bottom making. He still lacked enough knowledge on lastmaking though.
Therefore he left Japan in 2012, and headed off to England. He made a deal with Stephen Lowe, formerly lastmaker at John Lobb Ltd. and nowadays running Lastmaker House together with Dominic Casey. Yuigo Hayano was to teach Stephen’s son shoemaking, and in return Stephen teached Yuigo lastmaking.
– It was perfect for me, I probably couldn’t afford to spend the two years I did in England otherwise. Now I got the chance to learn lastmaking in-depth, both men’s shoes, women’s shoes, casual styles, twisted lasts and so on.
Yuigo wanted to stay in the UK and continue to work with Stephen, his son and Dominic, but he couldn’t get a visa to stay longer than two years. Stephen Lowe encouraged Yuigo to start his own brand when he went back to Japan. And so he did.
He spent large parts of 2014 with preparations to set up Bespoke Shoe Works. A brand offering well-made classics.
– It’s the type of shoes I like myself. I like classic, “ordinary” shoes, no real special features.
Price for his shoes start at about €2,550 (340,000 yen) including lasted shoe trees. He usually makes one fitting, more if needed. Most of his clients are Japanese, many discovered him when he was featured in the Japanese shoe magazine Last back in 2017.
– After the magazine feature I was also contacted by the large department store Isetan Men’s. They have some bespoke collaborations with for example Otsuka, Yohei Fukuda and Clematis Ginza, but wanted something that was more classic British. I first was there for a special trunk show event, then later I got to have my shoes on display with them, and do trunk shows regularly.
He’s got the business going quite well, and has a good reputation. However ever since the start of Bespoke Shoe Works he’s been doing outwork for some famous British bespoke shoe firms. During our interview the doorbell rings, and he gets a delivery from England. A box with a pair of lasts and finished uppers, along with some bottom making material and a description of what has been ordered.
– It’s only bottom work I do as freelancer, most reasonable part to send half across the world to have made. And I’ve become pretty good at it now, even though lot yet to learn and perfect, Yuigo says.
Main challenging he finds lastmaking, both to get his character out in the shapes, and to understand how different customers like their shoes to fit. Only experience can build on the latter.
I ask Yuigo Hayano what he dreams of in the future for Bespoke Shoe Works.
– As many others, I would like to do trunk shows in the US and Europe, try to make it internationally. Of course would be a big challenge, but would be very interesting to try.
I look at him for a second and ask, “so, what about England?”
– Yeah, that would probably be the most interesting arena to give a go, he says and smiles.
I’d say British bespoke makers should be a bit nervous about that. Cause today, some of the best British bespoke shoes in the world are made here, in the southwest parts of Tokyo.