When the explore page on Instagram is actually showing you ‘like content’ and not the latest ‘influencer’ garbage, you can sometimes discover some pretty cool things there. That is how I stumbled across Kenjiro Kawashima who is a bespoke shoemaker that works with/for Norman Vilalta. I saw this stunning purple pair of swan neck oxfords (see below) and thought to myself ‘those look familiar’ but had not seen them on Norman’s page which I see daily. So I got baited and click the photo to discover the wonderful page of Kenjiro Kawashima.
Kenjiro’s history is interesting. He was originally a teacher who had some shoemaking skills. He is Japanese but lives in South Korea. He decided to give up teaching to hone in on his shoemaking skills which took him to Barcelona to study under Norman Vilalta. After being there for a period of time he felt his skills were ready to be a proper maker and moved back to Seoul, South Korea where he now acts as head of Bespoke for Norman but also dabbles in his own practice. I spoke with Norman about this and he told me that while he is their outsourced bottom maker that handles the bespoke he is working on his own brand as well. I thought that was very noble of Norman to admit and allow. I say this as one thing many won’t realize is that bespoke outfits usually don’t want to hire makers that are looking to start their own gig. The reason is that it is hard to find quality workers so when you invest time and money to train them and make their skills what they are, you usually want a good return on your investment.
But, the reality is Norman was also given that opportunity with Stefano Bemer and knows what it is like to be on both sides of that table. Good on him for helping Kenjiro and I look forward to seeing more of Kenjiro’s work as truth be told, what inspired me to write this post was not the shoes that he made for Norman. As beautiful as they are, the one that really grabbed my attention was the extremely unique strap loafer that is featured. I had never seen a pattern like that before and it was intriguing, to say the least. I can only imagine that models like this are a prequel of things to come under his own label. And if that is the case, I can only see him being successful as his passion shows through his creativity. Let’s look forward to seeing what’s next for him!
Please learn more about him and his work at his IG page: https://www.instagram.com/kenjirokawashima/?hl=en
Learn more about Norman Vilalta Bespoke: www.normanvilalta.com