Ichigo Ichie is a relatively new maker in Japan who do a lot of things right. With a very informative website in English it’s way more accessible for international customers, and add to that an impressive price tag with fully handmade RTW/MTO starting at €700, and MTM which one can do remotely starting at €1,300.
Lee Trung is from Vietnam but has lived for many years in Japan, where he worked as a Software Engineer. He fell in love in Japanese handmade shoes, so much that he started taking shoemaking courses, and went deeper and deeper into this world. A few years ago, Lee felt he was ready for the next step, and started the brand Ichigo Ichie Shoemaker, which he slowly but surely has established wider and wider. He still works as an engineer, and do shoemaking on evenings and weekends, which is one of the reasons that he can offer the prices he does.
It’s evident that Lee Trung is Japanese trained, with a rather playful style reminiscent of makers like Guild of Crafts or Clematis Ginza, but who still has a nice way to approach the classics. He only do shoes that are hand lasted, hand welted with handmade sole stitch, as I understand it the only machine he has access to is a sewing machines for the uppers (one can order hand stitched uppers as well though, should one wish). The make surely looks nice for the price point, even if he has some years left to work to reach the highest level of cleanness in the making and finishing.
What Lee Trung has done well is to build up a website with lots of info and photos of his work, descriptions of order processes, and so on. Not always fully logical, one can see that it’s a work in progress, and not yet possible to place orders directly on site though it looks as this is what he is building for. I’ve checked in on the site a few times the past year, and he is indeed constantly developing it, also here, surely but safely. To make it in English, and have a presence in some shoemaking groups on Facebook, post nice photos on Instagram, it’s evident that Lee has a plan to make a name for himself. I’m happy to see that many new makers realise this and work in a good way, Siroeno Yosei and Masasyuki Kaneko are to other good Japanese examples, who only lack in internationalised websites. They look at and are obviously inspired by the best in these areas, like Yohei Fukuda and Hiro Yanagimachi. In todays day and age with so many great shoemakers around, not least in Japan, one have to work in a way to market oneself in a good way to make it in the long run. I also think it’s the right decision to keep it as a side thing and build the brand for the long run. One thing is for sure, he will only become better and better at making shoes.
Today, he has four different offerings. Three RTW models (several more ones are being developed and will be available in a while), which since he has very little stock in most cases are made when ordered, but since he has the basic patterns, one chiseled toe last shape and four different leathers to choose from here, it’s easy to make and prices can be held down at only €700 ($800). This means 3-4 months delivery time, but gives the possibility to choose last width and even instep height, which is a clear pro. MTO starts at a bit over €800 ($950) and here you can choose different last shapes, among all leathers and models, and even modify base patterns if one wish. MTM, where his lasts are modified for the wearer, starts at €1,300 ($1,500) and includes fitting shoes, and this can be done remotely. Delivery time is 9-12 months for the first pair. To top it off he also offers full bespoke starting at €2,200 ($2,500) for the first pair ($500 less for consecutive ones). So indeed good prices for what’s offered for sure. On his order and process page all options are clearly lined out. I’ve heard from a few who’ve ordered from him and they’ve been pleased both with the process and shoes. If you’ve been interested in trying out a shoemaker from Japan, but never really thought it would be possible since you wouldn’t travel there and prices were too high for you, Ichigo Ichie could be worth checking out.
I try to find best quality RTW shoes on the market in terms of construction and have some questions to your expert opinion.
1. You’re made edit in post about Acme that Stefano Bemer Tradizione Collection has machine stitched soles, but I found on their web-site comparision table and read that it hand-sewn. Let’s clarify where is the correct info?
2. I found on web-site GJ Cleverley, that their Anthony Cleverley Collection is semi-bespoke, but no word about it construction. Do you know is it hand-welted, or just Goodyear welted? And do you know Cleverley makes it inside self workshop or outsources to E. Green or somebody else.
3. Could you tell me some largest Italian bespoke shoemakers in terms of annual production? Almost impossible find any numbers about it, that’t why asking you as most experienced in this subject.
4. Last questions about Bontoni. Do you know their bespoke quality, is it proper full bespoke? And their basic RTW range hand-welted, or just Goodyear welted?
Sorry for many questions in one post, but really need to know.
Val: Ok, try to answer briefly:
1. Don’t remember how it was exactly, but I know I believed they were fully handmade but then someone informed me that it’s only the waist that is hand stitched, the front part of the sole stitch are made by machine. Hence my update on that article. Ask Bemer, they should be able to clarify.
2. It has nothing to do with semi bespoke, it’s just something they call it to make it sound good. It’s a RTW/MTO range, very fine but Goodyear welted with machine stitched soles, made by Edward Green. Cleverley has lied in the past about them being hand welted, they have also lied about them being made in their own workshop, which would be more than most of their full bespoke shoes since it’s outworkers in most cases, so as always they are not to be trusted on information they give..
3. I don’t know exact numbers, and depends on if you count in only the full bespoke orders or also handmade MTO/MTM etc.
4. Bontoni do many different constructions – Blake, Blake / Rapid, Goodyear welted, hand welted, Norvegese – prices vary depending on construction, but as RTW I believe Goodyear welted ones are most common. Don’t know exactly how their bespoke are, but they should be proper fully handmade full bespoke.
Jesper, thank you so much for the answers. If we are speaking to the Italian full bespoke (not MTO, MTM) who is largest approximately. You’re posted that Stefano Bemer approx. 150-200 pairs full bespoke, I think it is good quantity, comparable to G&G and Corthay, but who can compare with this among Italians on your opinion?
And among Japanese is it Yohey Fukuda the largest or no?
Val: Yeah Bemer is big (that’s more than both G&G and Corthay), Mannina are probably not that far after, Santoni make a decent amount per year, Ugolini roughly do 100 pairs per year, and a bunch of others in that ballpark or a bit below. Just of the top of my head now (and pre-covid numbers, should be noted, honestly have no idea how the situation is today).
Again, with Japan, depends on what you count as full bespoke. But sure, Fukuda is quite big with around 100 pairs of bespoke per year, Marquess a bit behind, then maybe Yanagimachi (though a lot of MTO/MTM there).