It is a high-end leather goods brand that makes sneakers in Italy, crafted to the highest possible standards. This is Koio, a New York City company created by Johannes Quodt and Chris Wichert.

Johannes and Chris became fast friends in business school, the only two Germans in their class at Wharton. They shared a mutual love of luxury sneakers, but a hatred for their high-end price tags and the old-school luxury experience.

With Koio, Chris says, they wanted to lower the price tag on luxury sneakers that typically cost $700 to $1,000. They hoped that would open up the luxury market and make it accessible to a broader audience.

Secondly, he says, they felt disconnected to traditional luxury brands and couldn’t really identify with them. The pair set out to make better sneakers, for a cheaper price, with a little less attitude. Johannes says they wanted to be absolutely approachable.

Koio got its start in 2015 with a $298 high top, 100 percent made in Italy, at the same factory that produces shoes for Chanel and Balenciaga. They launched a pop-up in New York City in the dead of winter and realized the brand needed both a digital and a downtown presence. Johannes says they love the combination of doing e-commerce on one side and retail on the other.

Koio likes to drop limited editions online and has produced some amazing collaborations. The first was with celebrity tattoo artist JonBoy.

The second was with Game of Thrones after HBO reached out. Chris says they’re big fans of the show and love the Jaime Lannister character, especially in the earliest seasons when he lost his hand. So Koio designed a sneaker dedicated to Jaime’s hand.

They’ve partnered with the Beverly Hills Hotel to produce a sneaker with the hotel’s iconic banana leaf wallpaper print.

One of their most recent collaborations is with ceramicist Ben Medansky. The sneaker features some of Ben’s pottery. Ben calls it “shoelery.”

Koio just launched a collaboration with pro surfer Quincy Davis from Montauk.

Koio now has three shoe styles: a high-top and two low-tops. Johannes says the classic low-top is the best seller. he says you can wear the model every day.

Koio’s business is booming. Last year, the company grew by more than 400 percent and is now selling more than 1,000 pairs of shoes every month, Chris says.

Koio has two stores in New York City: Koio Nolita at 199 Lafayette Street and Koio Upper East Side on Madison Avenue and 82 Street.
A third store will open in Los Angeles.

–ALISON MORRIS

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