Will this Upstart Brand Disrupt the Luxe Sneaker Market?

By Elizabeth Sergan for Fast Company

Koio’s founders Chris Wichert and Johannes Quodt grew up in Germany, where luxury sneakers took off in the ’90s, decades before they became popular in the U.S. While American sneaker heads were going wild for the latest Air Jordans, Wichert and Quodt—European sneaker enthusiasts—had a slightly more refined sensibility. They were obsessed with high-end designers whose shoes were Italian-made with the best possible materials, like calf hair and lambskin. Wichert remembers saving up for his first pair of Prada kicks when he was still a teenager. “I waited in line for them,” he says. “But when I brought them home, I had to think carefully about when, exactly, I would actually wear them, because they were so expensive I didn’t want to get them scuffed.”

These were the kinds of memories that Wichert and Quodt exchanged when they both started their MBAs at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. “As tall German guys, we really stood out,” says Quodt. “We bonded over our mutual love of sneakers and the fact that we wished there were more affordable high-quality sneakers on the market.”