Riding the west-bound JR Chuo Line from Shinjuku station for half an hour, travellers will arrive at a suburban town called Kokubunji, home of RECOUTURE As the name suggests, “RECONSTRUCTION” is the theme of the shop, which is operated by 32-year-old cobbler Shun Hirose.
“I've been working as a shoe repairer since I was 20 years old. I worked for a shoe repair franchise for about six years, and then opened my own shop five years ago here in Kokubunji. My job at RECOUTURE is mainly to repair insoles, which is basically what I've been doing since the beginning of my career. At one point, I realized that repairing is closely tied with customization as well. Of course, my primary aim is to repair the shoes as it was originally, but an important part of the repair process is to make the shoes more useful and comfortable for the customer. For example, when an elderly woman brought heels into the shop, I would suggest replacing the heels with softer materials, so it would be more comfortable for her to walk. I would describe this process as customization rather than repair.”
Communicating with the customer face-to-face inspires Hirose to come up with specific customization ideas that suit the lifestyle of each person. “I almost only wear sneakers recently, but I was a fan of boots in my twenties. When I started working as a shoe repairer, I came up with the idea to replace sneaker soles with boot soles. It sounded interesting and I personally wanted to wear something like that, so I customized it by myself. I was doing this sort of customization just for fun, but started to take it seriously as a business about a year ago.” Hirose’s 11 years of experience as a shoe repairer and knowledge in the structure of sneakers made it possible for him to deliver interesting and unique customs to the consumer.
In order to experiment with durability and comfort, he created custom Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars and Nike Cortez sneakers with hand-picked leathers and Vibram sole units. He then uploaded photos of those uniquely customized Chuck Taylors and Cortez to his blog and Instagram, which immediately attracted the attention of sneakerheads, not only in Japan but abroad. As a testament to this, during our interview, a customer from South Korea arrived at the shop with six pairs of sneakers packed in luggage (A bespoke sneaker from RECOUTURE costs around $180 USD, and may take longer than one week to be complleted). One of the South Korean customer's pairs was Hender Scheme’s homage version of the adidas Superstar.
“This one is very rare. The workd of Hender Scheme’s designer Mr. Kashiwazaki is very inspirational to me. He recently collaborated with adidas and managed to produce his homage collection as an official product. It's a great achievement and I feel very proud of him as a Japanese shoemaker. Also, I was hugely influenced by the works and aesthetic of The Shoe Surgeon, a Los Angeles-based custom shop. Anyway, what shall I do with these Hender Scheme’s shoes? It’s a tough on to customize. Well, I’ll just dissect them first.” With that, he begins to strip the shoe apart.
RECOUTURE mainly deals in repairing uppers and soles, but beyond that, there are few limitations on what Hirose can create with his hands.
“It's interesting to add both high-tech and low-tech elements in one shoe, but I feel uniformity more important. Aesthetics, colors, materials, and shape must be combined perfectly to make each shoe look beautiful as a final product. Sometimes I receive challenging orders from customers, but in many cases, tougher obstacles will produce a beautiful shoe. Meeting customers with incredible ideas allows me to discover something new.” When polishing new ideas, Hirose creates many samples until he feels fully satisfied with the comfort and quality of the pair.
The number of sneaker custom shops in Tokyo is increasing but what makes RECOUTURE so special is Hirose’s unique aesthetic, which constantly evolves as he regularly visits other sneaker shops, and monitoring sneaker trends.
Vibram, crepe, leather, shark, there are countless soles in the RECOUTUTRE shop. “It wasn’t difficult for me to find those soles because I was already in touch with wholesalers at my previous job, but there are actually many other soles that I haven’t had a chance to use. For example, I would love to use some certain Vibram soles which are not yet sold in Japan, and Dr. Marten’s soles as well. I literally get so excited just talking about soles!”
RECOUTURE 3-7-11 Minami-machi Kokubunji Tokyo, Japan
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