Daily we have been in Tokyo and walked down Omotesando Hills, there can be an extended queue on a rail close to the metro station.
We assumed the queue was for some hype-driven ‘drop’ of streetwear, and to be truthful more often than not they have been. However these affected person Japanese have been there for a store based by a now-dead silver craftsman, the primary Japanese to be allowed to take part in an American Indian Sundance ceremony.
Goro Takahashi died in 2013, however in his lifetime he turned a legend for his Indian jewelry and leatherwork. He began in 1956 and arrange the Omotesando store in 1972, and the look he popularised nonetheless persists right this moment – it’s the identical feather-dominated jewelry you see in lots of workwear shops.
The rationale there’s often a queue outdoors his store is that the jewelry (now made by a staff run by the household) is simply accessible there; he by no means wished any stockists. Satirically this implies shopping for a bit is just like buying a hype model: you should queue, be a part of a raffle, and might solely purchase one every.
Goro’s mismatch of demand and provide has created that very same dynamic, regardless that the item of need is okay jewelry slightly than a cheaply made T-shirt.
As a substitute it’s concerning the classic eyewear vendor and jeweller Solakzade, who occupy the 2 flooring beneath.
I point out Goro for context, as Solakzade are the one different tenants allowed within the terracotta-painted constructing that Goro acquired within the Nineties, when he was below stress to maneuver out of the more and more commercialised district. It’s a level of religion to Solakzade that they work below Goro’s blessing.
I first met the founders Ryo and Tatsuya Okamoto 4 years in the past, when Kenji Cheung of Bryceland’s briefly launched me (he’s an enormous buyer). And to be sincere I discovered them fairly intimidating.
They each are inclined to put on giant, daring sun shades, a number of kinds of jewelry, and clothes they design themselves – typically religiously impressed. Their father was a buddhist monk, their mom a Christian, and people traditions come by within the store in addition to how they gown.
It seems the brothers are completely beautiful, nevertheless – simply quiet, and intense. This time we had an hour speaking by their ardour for sun shades and hand-made jewelry, and it was frankly inspiring.
The store could be very private, in a number of methods. Ryo and Tatsuya designed it themselves and even constructed components of it, together with the big carved doorways on the primary ground. Inside, they’re eager to take lots of time with every buyer, studying what makes them tick and what piece would go well with their character.
“Eyewear and jewelry was once far more private, designed particularly for the person,” says Tatsuya, who does many of the speaking and whose English is taken into account, cautious.
The brothers each discuss issues like getting the shopper “to open their coronary heart”, or that the ensuing piece “turns into like an amulet, one thing protecting”. This might sound woolly, even phoney, however once you meet them you are in little question: they’re fully honest and take what they do very critically.
It’s additionally arduous to argue with the outcomes. Somebody like Kenji, who quantities to an obsessive collector of eyewear, reveres them, and regardless that they hold a low profile (maybe even due to that) the likes of Kanye West and Kate Moss are regulars. Bob Dylan was due within the day we visited.
“We do wish to cater to everybody, each character and style,” says Tatsuya. Value is clearly a barrier, as frames begin at £300 and run into the hundreds, however additionally they consider solely sure types go well with sure individuals – college students, artists, professionals.
“Some individuals put on these large frames that don’t go well with their character or their face,” he says. “It takes time to stroll by the design historical past and see what works.”
In my small manner I agree, having tried many types over time and made numerous errors. Folks are inclined to suppose they will put on a a lot wider vary of glasses (even sun shades) than they will. See articles on Bonnet analysing my frames or the worth of fine recommendation.
The shadowy Solakzade area – stuffed with gold mirrors and seventies chandeliers – is basically a historical past of 200 years of eyewear, starting from Nineteen Forties Ray-Bans to futuristic Philippe Chevalier types, uncommon Cartier designs to rose-tinted Nineties Gaultier frames.
Tatsuya’s favorite interval is the Nineteen Sixties: “It was the purpose at which the basic turned to the fashionable,” he says. “There was lots of power then, everybody making an attempt new issues.” Once more the phrase ‘power’ comes up loads when discussing each glasses and jewelry, however you recognize what he means, certainly once you begin speaking in these phrases you’ll be able to really feel it within the designs – how delicate or dramatic they’re, how conservative or authentic.
The jewelry is extra expressive and private nonetheless. Once more that is one thing I’ve at all times considered jewelry (which might be why I keep in mind him saying it…).
Jewelry ought to be particular, even distinctive. It was once made for somebody because of an interplay with a craftsperson, and in that manner is extra akin to a tattoo than a bit of clothes.
Like a tattoo you put on jewelry shut, subsequent to the pores and skin, and males’s jewelry is usually hidden. It doesn’t make sense to observe a trend or have the identical as everybody else.
“There may be a lot symbolism in jewelry,” says Tatsuya. “Some individuals used to put on a centipede, for instance, as a result of it’s an animal that can’t transfer backwards – it’s about by no means having the ability to retreat or quit.”
The jewelry a part of Solakzade is a bit more current, based 5 years after the eyewear. It’s additionally rather less accessible, though the brothers have lately began making their very own: “We wished to practise the craft, not essentially to promote however to know them from the within,” says Tatsuya.
One result’s the gold earrings beneath, which each the brothers have been carrying. Every is hammered by hand into totally different however comparable permutations, in 24 carat gold.
Like Goro’s, Solakzade’s classic eyewear will not be one thing that may be simply accessed, as you should go to the store. The one straightforward manner to purchase into it’s by the items they make for Bryceland’s – the Winston and Politician types. (Winston beneath on me.)
Nonetheless, I do know lots of readers have been asking about suggestions for locations to go to in Tokyo and this would definitely be one in every of mine. Some outlets ought to be locations, identical to Bryceland’s was once earlier than London, earlier than e-commerce.
Not less than there’s no queue or raffle system for Solakzade, but.
Solakzade: 4 Chome-29-4 Jingumae, Shibuya Metropolis, Tokyo. Opening hours are 2pm-7pm.