Yohei Fukuda creates iconic works of art that just so happen go on your feet. Now the Japanese master is teaming up with French standard-bearer J.M. Weston in a rarely seen, very welcomed collaboration between two of the most powerful forces in fine footwear today.
Fukuda began opened his own bespoke workshop in 2007 after learning the intricacies of the trade from masters at Northampton, England outfits including John Lobb, Edward Green, and George Cleverly. Over the years his stratospheric creations have become more accessible—first with a ready-to-wear line based on some of his greatest bespoke hits (“accessible” in that you can readily buy them and have them on your feet quickly, and that they’re significantly more affordable than the bespoke option…even though they still clock in at $2,300 a pair).
For this collaboration, Fukuda took one of J.M. Weston’s icons—the half-hunt demi-chasse derby, aka the 598—started with dark brown box calf leather, and added an antique patina and mirror shine. “Instead of adding color onto the leather, we used our skill to take the color off and make them look like antique shoes,” Fukuda told Stitchdown.
“A lot of people think patina is adding colors on leather, but traditionally patina is taking the color off. It takes a long time to do this and it is more difficult. None of the authentic patina will be the same. I think this is a unique way of finishing. The shoes look like antique vintage shoes even tough they are new.”
Other Fukuda touches include flat laces, natural olive green leather for the lining which Fukuda says will age beautifully, and a very versatile rubber Ridgeway sole. “My concept is ‘travel,'” Fukuda said. “If you can only take one pair of shoes with you when you travel, you would like the shoes to be very versatile so they can be worn with business suits and casual clothes. Also, you wouldn’t like to care about the weather—that is why we decided to use rubber soles.”
I thought Fukuda said something really interesting about the collaboration, and what J.M. Weston can do differently than his workshop. “While I rarely wear shoes from other makers, I wear these shoes often and am excited about collaborating with J.M. Weston to make a shoe our team could not produce on its own. Even if we use the same last, upper, and materials, our split to derby would look too neat or elegant. I personally like the way J.M. Weston creates this style.”
The collaboration sprung from a “foundation” program between the two shoemakers. For the last two years, two J.M. Weston shoemakers spend two months (lot of twos, sorry) working in the Fukuda workshop, while two of Fukuda’s shoemakers head to J.M. Weston’s factory.
“J.M. Weston and I feel it is very important to give the opportunity to young shoemakers to work in foreign countries, to learn shoemaking and to see a different culture, to open their eyes and brains,” Fukuda said. “So the aim of this program is not just learning shoemaking. It also helps to make creative shoemakers.”
The collaboration half-hunts are selling for 170,000 Japanese yen, or about $1,555 (a not insignificant increase over Weston’s already beautiful standard half-hunt, but hey—they come with shoe trees!). They’re available through June 10 by stopping by the Yohei Fukuda workshop in Tokyo, emailing Yohei at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you don’t know your size, Yohei strongly recommends you try on a 598 model at a J.M. Weston store to figure that out before ordering—the sizing is exactly the same as the standard half-hunt shoe.