What is going to create your road? Custom? Time? Or situations? No, your way must be built by your own will.
Okawa Yukiko is C.E.O. of “Bench Made” that has produced bespoke shoes in Setagaya, Tokyo. Now, she had worked at John Lobb in United Kingdom over eight years and mastered most about shoemaking. This interview gives you a locus of Yukiko's soul and will.
Official Site: Bench Made
Address: Shiba BLD. 3rd Floor 6-7-7 Seijo Setagaya-ku Tokyo 157-0066
■ I’m so glad to meet you, ma’am. My first question is about your reason to have got on the shoe making road.
Okawa Yukiko: I have often been asked. I had longed to become since my childhood. I had worked at a Japanese shoe company, but there was never what I had dreamt of. At the time, all of them manufactured shoes in their factories. To me, shoes meant John Lobb’s ones. I hoped to make them and so I went to England.
■ I know you had worked in John Lobb. Uh, it seems kind of difficult that Japanese work and master at a foreign long-established company…
O: Ah… rare was somebody who was interested in bespoke shoes at the time. When I was on the shoe making technology course at Cordwainers College in London, my teacher got surprised hearing my wish to work at a bespoke shoe maker. I saw a lot of students who desired to be designers there.
■ I see, you were a least-expected visitor there.
O: I entered the college and several months later, I wrote to the president of John Lobb that I desired to work for free there. Then, he wrote back to me that I could take up my post for filling a vacancy as a part-time job. About a year and a half, I had experienced various things there like shoe polishing, lasts and so on. When I was graduating, the manager invited me and I agreed to the proposal very willingly.
■ No hesitation.
O: In U.K., as work experience, someone who wants to work there knocks on the door and after a while, he or she can enter when the worker and the employer, both need each other.
■ You made it. And why did you quit although that was your long-cherished situation?
O: For family reasons. I had become a manager in clicking, made uppers as a pro, and had followed an artisan for mastering lasts and shoemaking. A decade let me see my own line. Then, it was the time to go.
■ It is usual that he has got skilled enough and goes resign in Britain?
O: No, no. They have their polyethism in England. For instance, in John Lobb, you have become a fully-fledged craftsman who receives pay at the full rate, and you get to work at your home. That is self-employment. In London, there are two other bespoke shoe makers and you can work with all them.
■ But you got out of England and came back to Japan. How come you did get back here, ma’am?