Interview with Kohki Watanabe


March 26, 2018 by Ville Raivio

VR: Your age and occupation?

KW: I am 25 years old, turning to 26 in April, and I am a student of the double bass.

VR: Your educational background?

KW: I am studying classical music and currently in 4th year of Bachelor of music at Royal Academy of Music in London.


VR: Have you any children or spouse (and how do they relate to your style enthusiasm)?

KW: No.


1960s George Cleverley brogues

VR: …and your parents and siblings’ reactions back when you were younger?

KW: My family already knew my passion was going to be serious when I got interested in menswear because I had been always keen on something particular in my life, like classical music.


VR: What other hobbies or passions do you have besides apparel?

KW: I am a big fan of car races, especially Formula 1, WEC (World Endurance Championship). I have been to Suzuka Circuit, Silverstone Circuit and Donington Park several times to see Grand Prix and some races. Last year, I visited Goodwood Revival where you can see a lot of vintage cars actually running, and people dressed up in 1940s to 1960s manners. For me it was like a dream.


1940s Peal & Co. bespoke full brogues

VR: How did you first become interested in style, and when did you turn your eyes towards the classics?

KW: It was when I was 13 years old. My parents bought me a pair of Clark’s desert boots. That was my first opportunity to feel how leather shoes are comfortable and to know how durable they are. Moreover, I was fascinated by the aging of the leather shoes. The more I wore them, the more the shoes became characteristic. This is something you cannot experience with trainers or flip flops. Then I rapidly developed my interest in well-made shoes and started reading menswear magazines to get more information. What always catches my eyes are English shoes like Edward Greens, Church’s and Trickers. They are simple, understated, and classic.

As for clothing, a Japanese cartoon called “Sarto Finito” helped me to build up my knowledge. You cannot underestimate this cartoon. It is a serious stuff. The stories are about tailored garments, a Japanese tailor in Naples, who is the main character, his friends and customers. But the biggest impact which changed my taste completely was when I was 17 and flicked through a Japanese menswear magazine which featured many Japanese tailors and introduced their house style suits. I was impressed by a navy suit from batak house cut, based in Tokyo, in terms of the shape. Since then my main interest has been bespoke garments, both new and vintage.


VR: How have you gathered your knowledge of the tailored look — from books, talks with salesmen or somewhere else?

KW: Mainly from my friends in the sartorial industry, films, and garments themselves.Interview_with_Kohki_Watanabe_at_Keikari_dot_com4
VR: How would you describe your personal style?

KW: I have always stayed with the traditional side which is not affected by trends, and I’ve just felt the greatness of it.


VR: Which artisans or RTW makers do you favour and why?

KW: My current dream is getting a pair of shoes made by Ms. Emiko Matsuda from Foster & Son. In my opinion she makes the most elegant shoes.


1930s Henry Maxwell bespoke boots

VR: Have you any particular style or cut philosophy behind the clothes you collect and wear?


KW: The clothes and shoes I collect are made to last and must be elegant. I am not a big fan of something that strongly reminds you about particular eras. Therefore, being timeless is very important in my collection.



VR: Who or what inspires you?

KW: Fred Astaire especially in a dinner suit or evening dress. He is just stunning. Except him, there is no individual who particularly inspires me. As a classical musician, J.S. Bach, Johannes Brahms, Gustav Mahler and Anton Bruckner are my inspirations. The recording of Brahms’ Symphony No.1 by Leonard Bernstein and Vienna Philharmonic is the first recording of classical music I ever bought and it still remains in my regular playlist.


VR: What’s your definition of style?

KW: As far as I understand, style is something which is created with personal principles. In my case, classic and timeless.

VR: Finally, given your knowledge on the subject, why should Keikari’s readers consider vintage footwear?

KW: Vintage shoes normally have better quality of leather and, as for RTW, there were more varieties of the styles and lasts in the past. Also, considering the background of shoes is such an exciting experience, the ex-owner, history of the shoemaker, and so on. The first vintage shoes I purchased were CC41 black oxford shoes made by True Form in Northampton. CC41 means utility, made between 1941 to 1952. The shoes fit me perfectly and they are still the most close-fitting but comfortable pair I have ever had.

Photos: the Watanabe archives


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"If John Bull turns around to look at you, you are not well dressed; but either too stiff, too tight, or too fashionable".
~ Beau Brummell