For years, Japanese shoemaker Koji Suzuki has offered stylish guys bespoke and ready-to-wear shoes made in his inimitable, Japanese-meets-Italian style. Now there’s a third way to experience the master cordwainer’s wares, thanks to a new made-to-order program available through the Armoury.
Suzuki, himself the son of a shoe designer, traveled to Italy to learn footwear design. This desire for a hands-on education took on a literal quality when he began apprenticing for the legendary Florentine shoemaker Roberto Ugolini, who would teach Suzuki his craft over the next three-and-a-half years.
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After returning to Japan, Suzuki founded an atelier of his own in Kobe, where he now makes shoes that match a jaunty Italian aesthetic to the typically Japanese focus on detail and craft. Among the hallmarks of his Spigola brand is its “Leggera” line, which consists of a classic penny and a tasseled loafer, each of which is lightly constructed in the Italian fashion.
These two styles, ready-to-wear versions of which are also available from the Armoury, are the basis of the new MTO offering. Clients have the opportunity to select their preferred color and type of leather, ranging from standards like smoothed or grained calfskin, cordovan, or suede, as well as Suzuki’s enviable selection of exotic skins including crocodile, lizard, and ostrich. Customers can also specify their outsole, from traditional leather to a slim rubber to a chunky yet still lightweight commando sole. Other design considerations, such as a two-tone upper or contrast piping, may also be chosen.
The base price for the MTO shoes stands at $1,200. The selection of a cordovan upper bumps it by an additional $1,850; while choosing ostrich, lizard, or crocodile increases it by a further, $2,450, $2,650, and $4,200, respectively. Adding to their value proposition is that MTO shoes will be crafted in Suzuki’s atelier, unlike the ready-to-wear loafers which are produced in a factory. Orders may be placed at either of the Armoury’s New York locations and are expected to be fulfilled within three to four months.
Those desiring further modifications, including changes to the last, may commission a bespoke pair from Suzuki himself, who continues to visit the Armoury for twice-annual trunk shows. But aside from a shorter fulfillment time, an MTO option provides additional benefits of its own.
“Bespoke is wonderful but it requires a lot of imagination on the part of the customer. It’s hard to visualize what the final shoe might look like,” Armoury co-founder Mark Cho tells Robb Report. “With RTW and MTO, you have a much clearer sense of what the shoe will look like on your foot and how it will feel. This is because an RTW or MTO shoe has an already completed last with fitting samples available for you to try.”
Across the footwear industry, it feels as if the growth of MTO is slowly closing the once considerable gap between ready-to-wear and bespoke—a development that Cho welcomes.
“I think people are becoming more interested in MTO shoes,” he says. “I think people also have a better understanding of the options available in the MTO program and how best to customize their shoe for themselves… With the wide variations in how people dress, these options are more needed than ever.”
And thanks to the dual efforts of Suzuki and the Armoury, the world just received one more.
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