Like many domestic Japanese brands, CAUSE is virtually unknown outside of their home country. Created by Hiroaki Masuda in 1996, the label has consistently taken small steps by blending traditional shoemaking with what he himself calls ‘Real Basic’ design concepts. CAUSE sneakers are designed stitch by stitch, with a emphasis upon materials, textures and durability to create shoes that have more than a hint of the familiar. We are very fortunate to introduce CAUSE…
Please introduce yourself to our audience…
My name is Hiroaki Masuda. I am the designer of CAUSE and I am based actually in Tokyo.
What did you do before CAUSE?
I used to work in a completely different field as an event organizer, inviting DJs from different genres, such as hip hop to house music, from all around the world to Japan. And I also selected sounds for radio programs. Then in the ‘80s, I was invited to London for work and had the opportunity to meet the shoe designers, Patrick Cox and John Moore at their factory, and see how they worked. And I guess that experience brought me to what I am doing now, because I lived in England and Italy for one year to study the process of manufacturing shoes and then when I got back to Japan, I started designing for CAUSE. That was in 1996, therefore we have been around for 12 years.
How has the sneaker scene in Japan changed since you started designing your own shoes?
This is my point of view, but I believe Japan’s sneaker scene, rather than being high tech, is more low tech and fashion oriented. Brands are using different materials to make their shoes look low tech, or they are remakes of ‘80s sneaker styles. Also, I believe there is a tendency to shift towards leather shoes too. I am working today on the creation of leather shoes combined with the comfort and flexibility of sneakers.
What is the single most important thing about CAUSE shoes that we should know?
Comfortability is the most important thing. My focus is on choosing the right pattern and working on the flexibility of the last in order to create the right feeling. Then I work on searching for the original materials and finally, on the cushioning of the shoe.
What is your direction for trends and style in the next year or so?
My current approach is on the combination of sneakers and work boots that are as flexible, soft and comfortable as sneakers. There is a long history behind the creation of shoes. My idea is to keep the tradition, but to add a filter of new trends to create new types of shoes. Keep the classic traditional ideas from our ancestors and add the new spice of today’s trend.
Is it your aim to become the biggest company, or do you keep production limited to maintain your image?
Big or small is not important to me. The balance between the image and the quality of the shoes is of big importance, therefore I spend a lot of time and energy on them. CAUSE has worked with brands like Maiden Noir and Stussy on collaborative models…
How do you approach this process and what do you hope to achieve?
I remember we were asked to make samples for Maiden Noir, but we never actually got the order. Therefore, let me only talk about Stussy. Collaboration work with other brands is always fun and interesting. When we worked with Stussy, we both put our total effort into it, and we came out with new ideas and exciting results. It also opened the door for us to work outside Japan. Being in contact with other cultures is very exciting and nourishing for me. I would like to keep on making more collaborative work outside Japan.
Where do you look for inspiration?
CAUSE shoes are made not only in Japan, but from different factories world-wide. So every time I travel, I get inspiration from different cultures and trends, while at the same time keeping the very core essence of Japan as well. I also get inspiration from electronic gadgets and furniture. From little things that you see every day, things that surround you, I can learn.
Are Japanese consumers looking for trends from traditional sports brands (Nike, adidas etc) the way they used to in the past? Or are they looking more to Japanese brands such as Visvim and CAUSE for example?
I think they do still respect the big traditionals such as Nike and adidas for their advance technology and trend-making. But also at the same time, domestic brands which are more compact and flexible, interest those who are looking for something original and fun. The big commercial companies cannot compete with the small brands at this level.
CRAM is a new offshoot project… How does it relate to CAUSE?
CRAM is a project that is still at an experimental stage. This project consists of designing belts and other articles made from shoe materials. I thought it would be logical and fun to have items that would go with CAUSE shoes in the same materials and design, so they can be worn together.
And finally, what are your thoughts about the future. What do you see?
Respect the traditions and the good things about them, while finding new ideas and tricks to add a new essence as well. I will continue to use my ability to create shoes, and I would like to keep on having fun producing shoes.