There’s a reason Hender Scheme’s leather sneakers have a such a huge cult following.
It seems impossible to imagine that Japan’s Ryo Kashiwazaki has been making shoes for more than a decade. He doesn’t look a day over 19. But ever since this soft-spoken, accidental entrepreneur began visiting Asakusa’s specialist ‘shokunin’ shoe craftsmen as a university student, his fate was sealed. As soon as Ryo finished his psychology degree, he dropped everything to learn his craft.
“These craftsmen, who come from very small towns, have never even been overseas before,” Ryo explains. “It almost seems like a paradox… The craftsmen are often in disbelief.”
The paradox he is referring to is Hender Scheme: Ryo’s own, eight year old brand that is now punching some serious weight on the world stage.
Ryo’s ‘Hommage’ collection, handmade leather tributes of the world’s most iconic sneakers, caught the attention of sneakerheads as soon as they were released in 2010. But it wasn’t until 2016 that cease-and-desist letters were swapped for invitations to officially collaborate. Since the launch of the Adidas x Hender Scheme shoe collection, more than 18 months in the making, things have changed drastically. Ryo’s sneakers, which still take more than 9 months to make by hand, have a global demand that now far outweighs supply. And this all comes down to the shoes’ lifespan – which is designed to outstrip its owner’s.
“Ideally, once a person has a pair and starts using them, it becomes their own. They might look nice on display, but [the shoes are] a tool meant to be used,” Ryo has said. “The way the sole wears down, whether someone likes their leather dirty or clean, in the end, I see a new pair of Hender Schemes at 80% of its journey. The remaining 20% only takes effect once someone puts them on and starts walking.”
This season, Hender Scheme’s sneakers are complemented by a collection of simple leather belts, soft suede bags, and classic portfolios and accessories – all of which are made from Japanese leather and riff on the word ‘flat’.
And a special addition to the new range is an experiment in colour psychology and the power of the mind’s eye called ‘Colour Exception’.
“The new line ‘typical colour exception’ is aimed at reminding one of memories and information that colour gives us by combining a typical colour scheme ,which is well known by the public, with the standard style of classic leather shoes,” says Ryo.
Ryo has taken colours that instantly provoke a famous brand, a jewellery house for example, or American courier company, and applied them to a classic shoe silhouette.
Two such ordinary parts, Ryo argues, might create something special: what he calls an ‘exception’.
“It’s a free ride on one’s experience and imagination,” he says.
Hender Scheme’s newest collection is available now.