How much is a designer label worth? That’s the question New York-based designers Johannes Quodt and Chris Wichert posed in the lead up to launching their own line of premium sneakers called Koio Collective.
The friends, who met at Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, established the line of men’s (and soon, women’s) sneakers on the premise of delivering designer-quality goods without the retail markups and prices associated with a Prada or Louis Vuitton logo.
Simply put, Wichert said, “Designers overcharge, so we set out to change this.”
Koio Collective joins a growing number of Italian-made footwear brands choosing to sell direct-to-consumer through their own e-commerce platform as a way to offer designer-level quality at a reasonable price. The line’s retail prices begin around $200 for low-tops to $340 for high-tops.
Thanks to the transparency the internet has created in retail, Wichert said consumers are more educated and have more opportunities to figure out what a brand really stands for. “It’s easier to compare prices and product, so we think when you see our shoe next to other designers, the only differences will be its unique design and much lower price point,” he said.
After a year of pooling the opinions of friends and fellow sneakerheads, Quodt and Wichert traveled to Italy to literally knock on the doors of factories until they found one that understood their concept and aspirations to change the premium sneaker market. The challenge, Wichert noted, was to find a facility that could ensure the refined attention to detail he and Quodt sought. They found it at a factory that produces footwear for Chanel.
However, you won’t find any entwined K and C logos on Koio Collective’s designs. The line launched in May with the men’s full-grain pebbled calf leather Primo high-top, available in black, white, chocolate and Pantone Color of the Year 2015, Marsala. “We chose to launch with colors that are timeless and simple, and that could be combined with a variety of looks,” Wichert explained.
The sleek sneakers, made with the same buttery leather you might find in a designer collection, are accented with subtle details that are in line with the designers’ minimalist aesthetic. Think hand-painted leather edges, Margom rubber outsole and soft calf leather lining. The only branding that come across is the padded tongue with Koio Collective embossing and the sneakers’ bright red leather insoles.
In July, the brand will roll out a women’s version of the high-top, followed by four more neutral colorways in the fall for men and women, and a classic low-top.
Wichert believes the premium sneaker trend is still in its infancy and he hopes to grow the company’s wholesale business. “We know it is necessary in order to create brand awareness and trust with customers, so they can touch, feel and try on the shoes,” he explained.
As a brand created by native Germans, designed in New York and manufactured in Italy, he added that you can expect to see more international influences in future collections. “Going forward it will focus on the global citizen,” he said.
After all, sneakerheads speak a universal language. Koio Collective’s Instagram account is already a pictorial guide of hot spots across New York City, London and Sao Paulo, and the brand’s newly launched blog offers tips on where to nosh, sip and shop—all while dressed in your Koio sneakers, of course.
It’s an authentic and fun way for Quodt and Wichert to tell their globetrotting story, while being a marketing strategy that appeals to globally-connected, adventure-seeking Millennials, who value authentic stories and experiences as much as previous generations lusted for brand labels and logos.