2022 is a challenging year for many independent craftsmen, but opportunities emerge in the tumultuous environment. For Akira Tani, the bespoke shoemaker leaving Osaka, Japan for Florence, Italy 10 years ago, 2022 is a milestone in his life, for he welcomed his new-born son this year and opened his first boutique on Borgo San Frediano 100R in Florence.
Japanese shoemakers are known worldwide for their attention to detail, and Akira’s work is no exception. The finishing of Akira’s shoes is exquisite. Working in Stefano Bemer from 2014 to 2019, he was once responsible for finishing all the bespoke shoes for a perfect presentation before they were handed to the clients. Akira inherits the masculinity of Stefano Bemer’s earlier work, which can be witnessed from the sharp rise from the lower toe to the instep. Meanwhile, he also embraced the Roman shoe style in his own aesthetic. He sourced vintage Roman school shoes from the vintage market to learn from their characters.
Akira learned his craft from two of his close friends. One of them is Akiyoshi Nishiyama, the founder of Ann Bespoke in Osaka, who was trained by the English school. Another is Seiji Miyagawa, the bespoke shoemaker of Stefano Bemer. Although he was trained by both of his friends, Akira Tani’s shoes are definitely Italian. “I can’t do the English way”, he told me. Then he further explained that the shape of English shoes is totally different from Italian shoes. For example, the forepart of English shoes possesses more curvature (which means a higher toe spring). Yet, Roman shoes tend to make the forepart tilted much lower (which means a lower toe spring), which consequently makes the Roman school shoes more stable, according to Akira, and the contour almost mimics the sports car.
Akira’s shoes are very elegant and reserved. He achieves masculinity yet sophistically avoids anything aggressive. The design is classic and noble but with strength.
When talking about the choice of leather, cinghiale (Italian, meaning “wild boar”) is one of Akira’s favourites, the character of the leather goes very well with his signature apron derby and split-toe derby shoes. But, unfortunately, the supply of cinghiale skin seems to have gone in short recently, and clients must be patient with it.
Bespoke clients sometimes are obsessed with fancy details like the fiddle back, but interestingly, from my observation, many shoemakers are not big fans of that. After all, technically speaking, making a fiddle back is not as complicated as some marketing content implicated. Akira adopts the square waist for many of his bespoke pieces, which are inherited from the Roman style. You can also find bevelled waists.
For the shape of the last, Akira offers both soft chisel toe and round toe style, but 90% of his clients went for the softly squared toe, which is another Roman style-inspired character.
The starting price for a pair of bespoke shoes with Akira Tani is 2300 euros. Considering the quality of his work, I won’t be surprised to hear that he’s already accumulating a long waiting list that will only increase shortly. This November, Akira is visiting New York for his first trunk show in the U.S., and all his American clients are first-time clients to Akira. The reputation of a good maker travels around the world rapidly for sure.