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R Y O   K A S H I W A Z A K I


Ryo Kashiwazaki is a young entrepreneur with an old-fashioned belief. As founder of Hender Scheme, a footwear and accessories brand best known for its coveted line of handcrafted leather sneakers, Ryo seeks to bridge the widening divide between Japan's traditional artisans and its new generation of talent. "It's not useful to compare who's superior or inferior," he says. "We need to exist together and share ideas."

Instead of cutting his teeth at an atelier, Ryo gained experience at a factory and a shoe repair shop. He prefers to think of himself as a maker rather than a designer. He started Hender Scheme in 2010, and for the first three years, he worked by himself. Hiring staff has expanded the brand's capabilities: Along with leather shoes, it now produces leather belts, jaunty baseball caps and even a leather jacket that retails for more than $3,000. "There's a limit to what one person can do," Ryo says. Still, he prefers to run a tight ship that reflects the values at the core of his business a small team of 13 takes care of all manufacturing, sales and PR. "We try to avoid outsourcing as much as possible, and we try to understand the products and the brand deeply,' he explains.

At the heart of Ryo's business is an appreciation for the technical skills needed to craft a product that will have serious longevity. Take his Homage line, a range of sneakers that reimagines the classic silhouette of iconic sneakers in vegetable-tanned leather; a gleaming pair of box-fresh sneakers is replaced by the shine of well-worn cowhide. For Ryo, when a mass-produced mainstay of street culture is transformed into an artisanal object, its entire meaning changes. "The core idea of the brand is that we don't see our product as completed when it's displayed in stores," he says. "Only by actually being used by the customer do the products become closer to being finished."

In the early days of his business, Ryo was carried forward by youthful vim and vigor: "I had nothing to lose or to be worried about," he says. Growing more successful means that he's traded that initial -as he argues, necessary- naïveté for a more measured approach. Throughout, he has held true to his instincts. "I'm the one who makes decisions for my company, under all circumstances," ! he says. "Any advice is just advice--I regard it as opinion. If there are 10 people, there are 10 perspectives. You have to think carefully, be sensitive and make choices with your own will." / KINFOLK

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