“I need to go out and buy more material,” said, understatedly, Japanese designer Noritaka Tatehana, who was already planning to hit Asakusa, the Tokyo neighborhood known for its leather. A few days earlier, the hysteria-inducing pop star appeared on Japanese TV in a pair of Tatehana’s vertiginous platforms, taking the young cobbler from obscurity to prodigy with one three-minute clip.
That the 25-year-old would seem unprepared for the barrage of orders is endearing. “My shoes aren’t really for everyday wear, so I don’t get orders from ordinary people,” he explained. Lady Gaga’s stylists discovered Tatehana after combing Tokyo’s back-alley boutiques, resulting in a get-up that also included Yuima Nakazato, Somarta and Balmung.
Tatehana recently graduated from the Tokyo National University of Arts, where he studied traditional Japanese dyeing and weaving techniques. His first collection included a pair of stunning “geta” sandals in embossed leather hand-painted by the designer. Working from his studio in Kamakura (a former medieval capital, now a creative coastal outpost an hour from Tokyo), Tatehana custom-makes all of his fanciful creations by hand, down to the stitching. He designs, he says, for those “who have a high regard for individuality.”