For four days last week the sartorial disneyland that is Pitti Uomo opened its doors for the eighty first edition of the tradeshow to help showcase one thousand and thirty three brands at the Fortezza da Basso. Oh how my feet ached as I explore the fifty nine thousand square feet of exhibition space, bouncing from area to area with the aim to unearth the real gems of the season. One gleaming piece of treasure was the now familiar H? Katsukawa from Tokyo.
Under the moniker H? Katsukawa from Tokyo, Eiichi Katsukawa makes hand made, eye poppingly colourful shoes, along with wonderfully textured distressed Nibe leather brogues from his studio in Tokyo. From the moment I encountered his stand at Pitti Uomo Seventy Eight, his leather creations never fail to raise a wry smile whilst causing a lustful glint my eyes. Now, it wouldn't be Pitti without a long visit to his stand to marvel at his latest creations. For Katsukawa shoes should be enjoyed and loved rather than merely worn. In addition to being well crafted, they should bring a smile to the face of the wearer and the people who encounter them throughout the day. His last few collections of bold designs have undoubtedly done just that.
"I express the avant-garde style with new viewpoints and the day-to-dayness as enjoyments by creating a form of shoes. The essence of that form is intangible love" purred the craftsmen. Katsukawa fell in love with shoes when he worked in the shoe repair department at the Japanese retailer Isetan. After gaining experience in Tokyo, he moved to Northampton to study shoe design and production methods at the Tresham Institute’s Practical Design and Shoemaking Course. It was there that he had the opportunity to meet the great Paul Harnden. Following his graduation from the Institute, he studied further under Paul as a intern at Brighton before returning to Tokyo in October 2004. His passion for shoe making has since evolved whilst working at the Shinjuku Isetan men’s shoe repair center and through his participation in a number of successful collaborations. Katsukawa is currently focusing on his eponymous collection of handmade shoes and his carefully crafted offering is growing with each passing season.
For AW12, old favourites including the wonderfully distressed and texture rich Nibe leather brogues remain but are developed and joined with an injection of more casual options that seem to merge loafers with desert boots and bowling shoes. Katsukawa believes that good shoe design involves an intriguing balance of four elements; material, shape, pattern and style. This latest season sees the shoe designer shift the focus from material and on to the shape and style. Now, I had to wait some time for the order frenzy to quieten down as buyers surrounded the stand before taking a few shots of the collection...
A selection of shots taken at his stand.
Whilst positively beaming as he proudly talked through the collection, Katsukawa informed me that his designs are now available at Dover Street Market Ginza and L'Eclaireur in Paris as well as his original stockist, United Arrows. With huge interest from buyers present at Pitti Uomo, I wouldn't be surprised if a few more options were added to his stockist list.