KOIO Leather Sneakers

Elevating trainers to a luxury standard devoid of gender lines

Elevating the trusty old sneaker, KOIO‘s designs are clean, classic and (perhaps best of all) made in various unexpected colorways—from earthy browns and creams to classic navy and saccharine pastels—with various textures on each shoe, including mesh, suede and more. Crafted by hand from remarkably high-quality calf-skin leathers in Italy, they are buttery soft but sturdy.

Considering the fine materials and care taken with each pair of shoes, the KOIO brand, store and team aren’t precious or stuffy. Rather, the opposite.

Founders Johannes Quodt and Chris Wichert wanted to improve on the traditional concept of luxury and make it more affordable, accessible and authentic. They tell us, “We felt frustrated with how luxury brands interacted with people. They didn’t naturally integrate the real world and the digital space, instead focusing on physical retail while so many of us shop online. Their customer service is stiff and never made us feel welcome. And they charge enormous prices for a product that we knew we could make better.”

They cherry-picked their favorite aspects of the luxury world and discarded everything else—trimming and tweaking their brand, product and experience to make all of it feel more in line with a younger generation. “We adopt the values that led traditional luxury brands to success—clean design, impeccable materials, and authentic Italian craftsmanship—and bring them into the digitally native space to build a more authentic and approachable brand for our generation,” they say. Quodt and Wichert also walk the walk, their own sneakers (when we meet them, they’re wearing the Primo Arena Mesh ($298) and Capri Bianco ($248) are scuffed and well-loved—not only showing they wear-in beautifully, but also they want them to be shoes for real life.

KOIO’s overall philosophy is one of accessibility and creativity—for all genders. After launching their first collection, the team was surprised at how the different sizes sold, “We launched a sneaker just for men and all our small sizes were sold out first—and it wasn’t guys who bought them. We then started to produce our sneakers in women’s sizes. By now, we have as many women customers as men,” they tell us. This led them to their current philosophy, which is free of gender lines, and while the site is set up between men and women, Wichert and Quodt say that’s just for some people to navigate more easily. The brick-and-mortar store has zero sections drawn out—rather it’s a clean and artistically designed space that displays the sneakers like artwork.

We’re so grateful that Koio speaks to all genders

Wichert and Quodt explain, “We’re so grateful that Koio speaks to all genders. We believe that members of our community should be able to choose the pair of sneakers that they like best—free of predetermined categories. Who are we to tell our customers if a shoe is for men or women? Most important to us is that our customers identify with their shoes and take them on an exciting path. Everyone has been responding really well to that philosophy.”

With this in mind, KOIO invited us to their SoHo store and challenged us to choose the same sneakers and style them our own ways. The entire team was immediately drawn to the pale pink (or “fiore”) colorway in the Capri low-top ($248) and while Josh’s outfit came complete with a bandana, keychain, watch and jewelry; Katie had to search for some sunglasses to fill up her look. While that won’t surprise many, it certainly speaks to the reality that gendering many products (especially in the fashion world) isn’t necessary.

KOIO making all their sneakers for all genders isn’t just logical, it’s also an important but subtle statement.

Images by Cool Hunting