Hidetaka Fukaya, also known by his nickname Il Micio, is as much artist as artisan.
Shoemakers tend to divide into two groups: those that are primarily driven by the artistic side of their work and those that are motivated principally by the craft. Norman Vilata is an artist, as are Christophe and Pierre Corthay; most English shoemakers fall into the second group, as does anyone who trained to bench-make shoes. Despite their slightly heavier construction than, say, Cleverley, Gaziano & Girling is the only English shoemaker I would put in the first category. Tony’s design aesthetic is truly original, even if the make owes much to Northampton.
Norman makes dirty shoes; Christophe makes shoes that melt; Hidetaka prefers wobbly or slanty shoes. The examples below are nothing more than art. Only someone driven by the artistic possibilities of his professions would create such expensive works of fantasy. Also in Hidetaka’s showroom, though not pictured, was a pair of shoes made in a leather that had been ‘marbled’ in the same way as traditional Florentine paper.
Tony has his own ideas for objets d’art. He also appreciates other arts in a similar way to Hidetaka.
But to give the basics. Hidetaka is Japanese but has lived in Florence for 15 years. He has a small showroom and an office on one side of Via dei Federighi and a workshop on the other. Three other Japanese work for him. His bespoke shoes start at €3000 and he makes around 50-60 pairs a year. He trained under Alessandro Stella in Sienna and the vast majority of his clients are from outside Italy.
“I came to Florence because it is the centre of bespoke shoemaking in Italy. It is also a centre for many other crafts, which is inspiring,” he says.
Strictly speaking, Il Micio is Hidetaka’s bespoke brand. He makes ready-to-wear shoes, to the same quality as bespoke, for Tomorrowland and Tie Your Tie in Japan under the brand Hidetaka Fukaya. He only travels to Japan for bespoke appointments, but is considering adding Singapore.
(RTW shoes from such Florentine craftsmen are worth keeping an eye out for, given their quality; Stefano Bemer is an example. Benchmade shoes are only cheaper to make if you already have the machinery.)
Hidetaka’s shoes are, as you might expect, slim, sharp and finely worked in the details. He likes monks, slip-ons and balmorals. On the wall of his workshop is a sheet of sketches for bespoke commissions. He also likes designing original leather goods.
I am not yet an Il Micio client and therefore cannot speak to the fit of his shoes. But my good friend Wei Koh, founder of The Rake, extols their virtues. And he should know.
As I leave, I ask about the two vintage bicycles leant against one wall of the workshop. It turns out Hidetaka is a keen cyclist and has ridden L’Eroica three times. Suddenly I begin to spot the references around the room, such as the three riders drafting each other across the top of the strip light. I knew we had something in common.