It's not your fault if you've never heard of Masaru Okuyama. Mr. Okuyama is one of Japan's finest master shoe makers. Based in Hong Kong, he is one of the finest examples of the extraordinary quality of bespoke Japanese shoes. Mr. Okuyama's shoes have an understated elegance that draws in the eye and forces us to stare and admire the shoes. The lasts pay careful attention to curves and balance out the shoe such that it remains understated while also appearing refined. Mr. Okuyama is in Los Angeles, CA for American clients so if you can't make it to Hong Kong, visit sunny LA. The wait for a finished product these days is between 6 to 10 months. As they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder.
We recently had the chance to speak with him. Our conversation follows below.
LC: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and when you began producing shoes under your own name?
MO: I started shoe making after quitting a Jewelry Brand in Japan which sent me to Hong Kong for 3 years. The reason why now I’m based in Hong Kong comes from that period. I was adjusted to the working style in Hong Kong so I wanted to try my bespoke carrier in Hong Kong. I started making shoes under my name 7 years ago.
LC: What makes a Masaru Okayama shoe unique?
MO: The shoes contains elegance and comfort in the minimized simplicity of design.
LC: Japanese shoes tend to have a much higher quality of attention and detail than European and UK shoes. Why do you think that is?
MO: I wouldn’t say Japanese shoes are higher quality than others. You can’t tell the quality of shoes only from how they look. They are to be worn and to spend time together with users.
So the quality of shoes should be judged by the each end users for each pairs.
LC: Where do you source your leather and soles from?
MO: Upper leathers are mainly from France and Italy.Sole leather are from England and Germany.
LC: Can you tell us a bit more about your lasts and your own designs?
MO: When I make last I try to make it elegant at the same time comfortable. Some may think that you have to compromise the elegance for comfort or vice versa. But I believe elegance and comfort can coexist. When I design I put effort to make it harmonize with the beauty of the curves of the last.
LC: What are your thoughts on a RTW or MTO line?
MO: I’m feeling the necessity of starting it. But not ready yet.
LC: How many artisans work with you? And how long does it take to make a pair of shoes?
MO: I’m working with 2 assistants now. Delivery time of bespoke shoes is about 6 months to 10 months.
LC: Can you share with us your process for making a shoe for a customer?
MO: First I measure the foot of the customer and discuss and decide the design and the details with the client, Make wooden lasts. Then make trial shoes for checking the fitting. The client wear the fitting shoes and check the fitting, adjust the lasts. This process may take 2 or 3 times.
After confirming the fitting is OK go into real shoes making. After the delivery I will do the check up after couple month to half year.
LC: How can a customer in US or Europe today purchase a pair of shoes from you?
MO: Making bespoke shoes I need to measure the clients feet in person. So I hope one day I can go to US and Europe for trunk show. Or please visit my atelier in Hong Kong.
LC: In your own collection which is your favorite shoe?
MO: I like my one piece design with inside seam. And it’s also the most popular design with my clients.
LC: Which shoe makers today do you admire?
MO: Too many to name.