Interview with Chihiro Yamaguchi from Guild of Crafts


September 4, 2013 by Ville Raivio

‘I was born in 1960, and I am a bootmaker. I graduated from the Cordwainers College (the University of the Arts London) in 1990, specializing in shoemaking education. I have two children, and they are still in school. The elder one is currently attending an art University, and the younger one is still in High school. My father was a stone engraver, focusing on traditional Japanese style engraving. Naturally, as his eldest son, he wanted me to follow in his footstep, but I wanted to explore other things, so I chose a different path.


Though, my younger brother has taken over his job and become a stone engraver as well. In all, many members of my family are involved in arts and crafts related work to this day. I enjoy drawing and painting very much. I used to be a fine arts student when I was in Japanese college. Drawing and painting relax my mind, and keep my spirits up. This is particularly important as I have a lot of stress from work. I also like to play the Ukulele whenever I can find the time.

Soleful filing, welt stitching

I started to be conscious about fashion when I was in high school. For some reason footwear, among all fashion items, attracted my attention, and I felt the importance of a nice pair of shoes to complement other clothing items. Besides, I found things made of leather so attractive. Leather goods have a character as they age, and if one takes good care of them, they look better as time goes by.

Tools of the trade

Footwear and leather goods are like partners for life. They introduce their owners to the people around. Fashion changes your appearance, shoes raise your heart. I indulge in classical things/design rather than fashionable items. Classics never go out of style, they retain their character and are appreciated by all, it never comes and goes. So when I create something, I want it to last a lifetime.

Bamboo shank with the inner workings of shoes

I have been in “the footwear world” for more than 33 years, and I’ve met and learnt from so many craftsmen and artisans. It is difficult to name them all. I gathered my basic knowledge and experience with shoes when I worked for a shoemaker when I was 20 to 26. After I graduated from Cordwainers college in London, I worked with Chris Spencer (Tecnic Shoes in England), and then at Tricker’s, Crockett&Jones, Dr. Martens, Stefano Bemer, Gabriel (in Venice), Clouds (in Lucca).

Just lasted, the Jasper model

I learnt a great deal about shoemaking from these places. I am also greatly indebted to Mr. Len Robinson — who used to work for Edward Green and Tricker’s in their handmade section — who taught me a lot about high-end handmade shoe techniques. Mr. Robinson is indeed a true artisan in the world of bespoke shoemaking.

The Triniquet model, sole: finished

I was asked to stay at the cordwainers’ college as a teacher at the time when I graduated. And to obtain the permission to work in England, the principal offered me membership in the Guild of Master Craftsmen. But to get the membership, I was required to submit samples of my works, portfolio, and two letters of recommendation.

The Waver model with blue accents and engraved medallion

The principal of the college provided me with one, and the president of “Cole Haan Japan” wrote the other. That’s how I was inducted to the Guild of Master Craftsmen. I named my company “Guild of Crafts” in Tokyo when I decided to create shoes under my own name. That was about 18 years ago. So far, I have found my place and established my brand in the shoemaking world.

The Grady model with two-tie lacing

[As for my house style, it’s] Be Simple and Smart. Don’t Be Noisy and Self-satisfied (masturbation). Don’t forget Pop and Classic. The style called “Permanent” is what I want to make one day. My favourite model is my Jodhpur Boots named “Jasper Ⅱ” (see attached picture). And I like French Calf the best at the moment. I patronize a tailor in Ginza, named “IDEM“. Although it is not very well known, they make superb products, and I enjoy having my clothes made there. IDEM is a hidden treasure in Tokyo.

Interview_with_Chihiro_Yamaguchi_from_Guild_of_Crafts17The Jasper II model

The reader should choose Guild of Crafts as there aren’t many people who can study one thing, stay with it and perfect it for more than 30 years. [My advice:] polish your shoes well. A nice pair of shoes speaks a lot about the person who wears it, and it will open a lot of doors for you.’

Pictures: © Guild of Crafts

1 comment »

  1. MR.Bilge B. says:

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