Britain's new monarch has long been known for his penchant for getting favorite old shoes and clothes repaired rather than thrown out, but now the practice has taken off in Japan, at least among shoemakers, who are offering to bring precious footwear back to life with what they have dubbed the "Charles patch."
Masatomo Sato, 40, works hunched over a vintage sewing machine in a dimly lit workshop in Tokyo's famous Shibuya district. The originator of the name for the technique of applying a leather patch to damaged footwear, he has been doing it for around 10 years.
Conventional wisdom states that while the soles of leather shoes can be replaced any number of times, when the upper part is damaged, it is time to buy a new pair. Sato, however, wanted to find a way for people to keep wearing shoes they are particularly attached to.
When the method finally began to take shape, he thought about what to call it. He happened to see a photo of Charles' patched leather shoes in a magazine and decided to name the technique after the then prince.
A Charles patch is generally sewn over damaged areas with leather similar in texture to the original leather shoes. The surface is processed and buffed to blend in with the texture of the worn shoe and completed by devising ways to make the borders seamless.
However, according to Sato, it is left to the owner's discretion whether to make the repaired part as inconspicuous as possible or to design it in a fashion that dares to let the unique patch stand out.
Some of his customers come to him after failing to find anyone else to repair their shoes but remaining fixed in their determination to hold on to them. "I want people to cherish the value of using good things for a long time," Sato said.
Without maintenance, high-end shoes will last for less than a year, but when polished regularly, they can last from 20 to 30 years, Sato explains.
According to clothing historian Kaori Nakano, King Charles, long a champion of environmental causes, is known to use his suits and leather shoes for decades, patching them as need be as they become worn, following the credo "Buy once, buy well."
Nakano said, "King Charles has been talking about environmental issues for half a century, and although there were times when it was difficult for people to understand, his consistent stance is now well received."
According to the Japan Shoe Repair Association in Tokyo, patching repairs have been around for a long time, but the name Charles patch only gained traction in the last several years.
The shoe repair shops are spread throughout the country, mainly in Tokyo. Osamu Hashiguchi, 52, executive director of the association, said, "by naming it after King Charles, the negative impression given by the feeling that one has worn a pair of shoes too long has disappeared, and it has become easier to accept."