Yuki Matsuda Interview
Yuki Matsuda founded Yuketen with the idea of embracing traditional design ethos and applying a unique edge that makes each design relevant for today. Incorporating the finest materials that are defined by rugged and refined aesthetic, Matsuda has been able create some of the finest pieces of footwear and luggage. Founded in 1985, the amount of attention applied to the design and construction of each Yuketen article is one to appreciate with Matusda accepting nothing less that the best. I sat down with Matsuda to find out a bit more about the brand, past, present and future, while getting a look inside the space where each product is made.
James Oliver: Can you tell me a bit about your childhood?
Yuki Matsuda: I grew up in Osaka. When I was a kid I loved fishing and hunting beetles. It wasn't until I was fifteen years old that I found and pursued my current love of classic style and fashion.
JO: How did this shape your vision to become a designer?
YM: I never planned to be a designer. I didn't attend design school. I was lucky to see so many vintage pieces in my life and that experience caused me to wrestle with the question, “How can I make clothing and shoes better than this?” That's what I'm still doing now, still trying to answer that unending question...
JO: Can you please tell me what the word Yuketen means and why you wanted to call the label Yuketen?
YM: Yuketen is the combination of three names. My name, Yuki, and two other people I knew before.
JO: What is it about traditional Americana clothing and artifacts that you appreciate so much?
YM: First, I should clarify that I'm not a supporter of every piece of Americana clothing. Only the good ones! I also love vintage pieces from the UK or France or any place and country with outstanding products. I strongly believe well-made products don't have to be American or English or French. They can exist anywhere in the world and I love to discover those great rare vintage items. The most notable styles summon a nostalgic feeling that overtakes me completely and I can lose myself in the details. That's when I know I've found something really really good. I can feel it.
JO: What was the original concept of Yuketen? How has this evolved and grown since the beginning in 1989?
YM: Initially I wanted to make good quality shoes in the U.S.A. Over time my aims for Yuketen have grown to include more people, more countries, and more designs while simultaneously becoming even more obsessed with the original goal of quality and craftsmanship. Currently we're making what I consider the best shoes in the world and we're only getting better! Even though we've worked extremely hard to get to where we are now I still am shocked by how much we've grown in recent years. For example, for a number of years now I've been working together with a factory partner in Maine. We built a small factory in Maine together in order to produce handmade moccasins. Because of him we can offer our customers world-class handmade moccasins exactly the way I imagine them. His skill for making shoes is amazing. I know you want to know his name so I'll indulge you. His name is Jerry and he is a one-of-a-kind shoemaker.
JO: Being Japanese and living in California, how do you perceive this diversity effects your approach?
YM: Not much. Mostly I'm still the same as when I was fifteen or sixteen years old and still living in Japan. I'm just older and wiser now and living in Southern California.
JO: How do you maintain a fresh approach and have the ability to come up with new designs and perfect/master past designs.
YM: I have to give credit to my team at Meg Company. We've assembled a team of very talented and capable people who give me the freedom to spend time on the creative process. If I did not have this help from my team Yuketen would never be in this position.
JO: Can you tell me a bit about the process of your design work?
YM: Typically I'll start from an idea I've been developing internally for some time and I will isolate myself within my creative space to concentrate on bringing that idea to fruition. Then I feel it and I create it.
JO: What is your vision for Yuketen?
YM: Keep improving with age.
JO: Finally, what is the best piece of advice you ever received?
YM: Have appreciation all the time……
Thank you for interviewing me and thank you to your subscribers for taking the time to read this interview.