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Women’s shoe designer Moe Enomoto

by Judit Kawaguchi

Moe Enomoto, 28, is a women’s shoe designer whose Sellenatela brand is carried by exclusive stores in Tokyo’s Ginza and Daikanyama districts, and in San Francisco’s hip Venus Superstar Boutique. Fascinated by beauty and driven by a desire to empower women of all lifestyles, Moe hopes that her shoes give women the confidence and energy to go far in style and comfort without having to walk in others’ footsteps.

Nobody can succeed alone. I design by myself, but to make the actual shoes, I need many people’s support. Three or four days a week I work in the factories with craftspeople whose expert advice improves my original idea, but even if we make a masterpiece, unless a store carries it, nobody would even know it existed. Many people are involved with just one pair of shoes, so I don’t even feel comfortable calling the finished product my own: It is ours, really.

People want to touch what they like. Humans have an urge to feel the texture of what they find attractive. I see this firsthand in stores, and I know that the best indication of a hit item is how many people hold it in their hands.

High heels don’t need to be such a pain in the foot. High heels are sexy and gorgeous but they usually hurt so much that one wants to rip them off after a few minutes. I guess that is because most are designed and manufactured by men: How would they know how the shoes feel? I wear my own designs, and within about three months I can figure out and fix most of the troubling details. Once the shoes are on the shelves, I listen to other women and keep improving them.

One must support the local economy. Just because there’s cheaper labor abroad, I don’t think anyone should be out of work here in Japan. That’s why I make all my shoes in Tokyo’s Asakusa area. I care more about human relations and keeping the quality of the shoes high than about profit. I have so little of it, anyhow!

The older a man gets, the more he sees a woman from head to toe. A man’s gaze gets lower as he ages: Boys in their teens are mostly fascinated by a girl’s face; guys in their 20s check out her breasts; and men in their 30s are concerned with her waistline. By the time men hit 40, they are also looking at her bottom, and men in their 50s are more attracted to her legs than younger guys. Of course we can only hope they all see her inside as well, and consider that the most important part.

Ginza is the best part of town for walking. Most of Tokyo is a maze of curving narrow streets arranged by what could be best described as chaos theory, but Ginza is like a foreign city. It is laid out on a grid with wide sidewalks. It’s a place to strut one’s stuff.

Don’t worry too much about being copied. I never hide anything, whether it is a design idea or a business plan. I learned this from survivors in this tough business, the owners of the factories that make my shoes. As long as I’m honest, others can also open up completely and we can collaborate.

Be different: It’s more fun! Few people shop according to their own fashion sense. Most copy trends because they have very little confidence in their ability to decide what is cool and suitable for them. I work in stores at nights and on weekends because I want to get real feedback. One thing never fails to shock me: Women always ask what the most popular color is and then buy that one. They often take a photo with their mobile phone and send it to their friend or boyfriend to help them decide which shoes to buy.

Show your appreciation to your parents and siblings every day. I love my mom and dad and am so thankful to them for giving me my two sisters. When we were small, we moved 10 times because of my dad’s job — but we never felt sad, because we had each other.

Unless a Japanese succeeds abroad, he or she has trouble making it big at home. This is so sad but so true: Japanese love those who become famous abroad. Once they do, we import them back to Japan and praise them as though we knew how talented they were all along. Once again, this is because Japanese need the approval of other people — in this case, foreigners.

Unless you are in the news every day, nobody remembers your name. Especially in Japan, where people are crazy about brands, one has to keep appearing in magazines not to be forgotten.

If I do something, I want it to be the best quality or I don’t even want to begin. When I was 21, I decided to go to university. If I was going to study, I wanted to learn from great professors and have smart classmates. I studied hard for the entrance exam and got into Gakushuin University, where members of the Imperial Family go.

Even if you are refused at first, or the second or third time, don’t give up. Over the course of one year, I visited 44 shoemakers, many of them several times, asking them to produce my shoes. All refused me politely. Only one, Arihiro Tsunoda, who owns the factory that makes most of my shoes now, took the energy to yell at me for trying to get into such a difficult business alone. I cried, but I felt he cared, and now he is like a second father to me.

Make it simple. My life’s goal is to design beautiful shoes that make people happy, and that will take them where they want to go — and maybe even to places where they had never dreamed they could go. I hope that’s where I’m heading, too.

Judit Kawaguchi loves to listen. She is a volunteer counselor and a TV reporter on NHK’s “Out & About.” Learn more at: juditfan.blog58.fc2.com/