Getting it Just Right

Yuki Matsuda grew up in 1970’s Japan, catching glimpses of American culture from movies, magazines, and from vintage trading stores in Osaka’s “American Village,” finding the representative style enticingly free and intriguingly complex. In sharp contrast to the class structured uniforms and firm traditions of the previous Japanese generations, Matsuda and his friends explored the details of Americana, the freeform styles of personality - rugged and individual. He studied the blue oceans of denim, eras of collars and premier fabrication, the history of buttons and brass hardware, the grain and stitching of leather.

It was then, and still is, the visual language of subcultures - and Yuki Matsuda taught himself to read its depth and nuance.

As soon as he could, at the age of 18, Yuki packed his bags and boarded a plane to California.

With what money he had, he traveled the continental US, collecting vintage Americana, learning its history, and reselling the treasures at the Rose Bowl - America’s most famous flea market. Vintage collectors and dealers, sifting through racks and piles, stopped at Yuki Matsuda’s stand and, surrounded by heritage gold, they shared in an education mostly ignored and nearly forgotten.

As his collection grew, so did his understanding and connection to the pieces, but there was something frustrating in this pursuit. As competently as each piece was built, as much work soul or style gold was faded-in and pride-worn, the fit was often funny - tight where it should breathe, slouchy instead of cooly relaxed - built to endure but not designed for the movement beneath the layers. He wanted something better than beautiful disparate parts; he wanted them united.

In 1989, he and his future wife Megumi, struck out on their own and started Meg Co. to umbrella the designers interests, taking his inspirations with him to the drawing board of a Torrance apartment.

Serendipitously, Yuki met Tom O’Neil, operator of a small shoe factory, who invited him to New England to learn cordwainery first hand. Working together, the two created a Goodyear-welt shoe exclusive for Beams Japan that started the ball rolling for Yuketen, a label to house his footwear innovations.

From that first accomplished aspiration, Yuketen has grown into a world renowned label of iconic and well-crafted shoes - footwear that is built to endure and age handsomely. Each style has its own historical reference, building on those lessons by rearranging heritage details - combining stitches, hardware, and refining lines, reevaluating fit and constantly improving - season by season and millimeter by millimeter.

Machines can’t make the shoes that Yuketen does; they need to be contemplated into from from the finest raw materials by the most experienced leather artisans. Crafted by hand in the US, without “these people, I can not make my shoes, even if I have a great design.” Yuki Matsuda designs through their skill and an experienced eye from his lifetime of vintage collection.

But footwear was never his only inspiration. In 1995, Meg Co. started the Monitaly label to solve the frustration of fit for the modern silhouette. Rearranging the best heritage details and elevating once casual garments through fabrication and expert tailoring, Monitaly captures the aesthetic and confidence of vintage, but makes it feel tailor made off the rack. “Every stitch has a soul.” - a reverence that translates into an experience of long appreciated wear.

Then, inspired by a trip to Mexico’s rural highlands, Yuki Matsuda started Chamula, a label specific to promoting the traditional handmade art of the Michoacán cottage industry. The delicate weaving techniques of the region creates products of intricacy and strength - pieces that are quietly wonderful. Produced by the same hands that inspired the label, Chamula takes vestiges of cultural significance and spotlights their value through the lens of deferential fashion.

Meg Co. and Yuki Matsuda continue to pursue something greater than has been seen, felt, or swaggered in. The best of everything put together, understood from the back racks to the freshly folded and around the world again. It’s what life is into...