February 28, 2013 by Ville Raivio
“I am 41, I am a bespoke shoemaker also a College Professor teaching accessory design. I guess it is in my genes. There were many generation in the family work with leather, shoes, boots – I born into a family, where tools were part of the heritage from my grandfather. Before I went to shoemaking school I did not have that much idea, my Mom did not force me or something, just mentioned it as a good idea. I liked the idea, so I did it. I did not regret my choice. I have very mixed education, but shoemaking is my first career. I started my shoemaking education in 1986 and finished 1989. I also have college degree in economics and as a karate trainer. I was very active in Karate for several years, competing, teaching. When I have a little time I just work on my book. I guess I am just lucky, that my work is my passion.
I don’t have kids yet. If I will have, I hope they will share my passion to shoemaking. I am sure [my folks] are proud that they have a shoemakers in the family. I re-started Koronya, when shoe business was really much down, all production practically went to Far-East, so even my grandma was concern about my future. In a year or so, everybody was convinced. Not just good feedbacks, but good PR, a lot of orders and invitations.
Schools and good masters should come first. I had and still have a lot of friends in this craft and I can proudly say, I can learn from students – I mean they don’t teach me, but sometimes, when I stocked with something, their fresh ideas, tries, approaches can help. Obviously it needs a strong professional background, what I was luck to have from a pure source. I like simplicity. Because of my work I prefer not to have really expensive suits (the workshop is not a delicate place for expensive clothes), but I love good quality shirts – I have a lot of those. Luckily my size is very regular, so I have a wide range to choose from. I would say I wear casual elegant style. In terms of colors, I insist of masculine ones: blue, khaki, brown and black for sure. For accessories – for obvious reasons: coming from a leather-crafter family – I am spoiled. I make the shoes for myself, I have custom made bridle leather briefcases, belts etc. I can easily match them if this is what I want. I prefer to wear my own shoes – not just for comfort, but some stuff you just can’t purchase. I wish to have more time to make shoes for myself.
I have a special one, the K model. I design, re-design that last model for several years, always finding something to improve, change. The shoe style is the same. It just look like a regular oxford – and that is correct – but with very meticulous details. I also love wholecuts and any shoes with fancy details in the construction. Why should someone choose me? Well, let me answer with a question: what is the difference between rap music and Bach? Same for shoes. It is easier to spot the similarities, than differences. They both look like shoes, you see a lot of leather on the visible spots, but that is it. They can choose any of those. This is the beauty – just like restaurants. You might like a particular one, but you try many. There are huge differences for sure, in terms of quality, design, craftsmanship and prices for sure. I think the main argument for choosing a Koronya shoe is quality. service and comfort.
The fact that they are part of the process is just a plus. They not just placing an order at a store, but a leather scented workshop, full with old tools and authentic interior. They receive fittings, not just the ready made shoe immediately and I make sure they receive what is good for their feet. Many people walk away from shoe store with footwear which might cause damage. It shouldn’t happen with mine shoes. I believe bespoke shoemaking should remain a personal business, when a human measure your foot (not just nostalgic reasons, but this is more accurate – a machine will never check if your feet is just squeezed because of the shoe you just stepped out, just scan), you should spend time in the workshop, making your choice, and get your shoes there. If you can’t walk into the workshop – you lose half of the experience.
The effects of media coverage? Surprisingly none. I mean it put my name out there, so many people will know who I am in the shoe world, but on the other hand I never had a single customer coming because he saw me in Men’s Journal, The Rake or Town and Country. it is more fun I guess for me, friends and family, but there are so many magazines, TV and radio – come and go. Recently I was just avoiding giving interviews because of wasting time. My waiting list is pretty long – why would I want to generate more interest?
Try! If someone take the first good handmade shoes on his foot, that will change him. Not just stands and walks a different way, but it gives a comfort what you never dreamed of. People tend to think that athletic shoes are comfortable – they are good for sports, running tennis, etc. After the first experience with a good, made to measure, handmade shoes they don’t want to wear anything else. Let me share this. If I have a customer, who orders his first pair, I warn him: do not wear them twice in a row. For sure they will, even if this doesn’t let the shoe dry properly, so they risk that it loses its shape and wears off before time. You just can’t resist. Cheap materials, foams, paper insoles, synthetic stuff doesn’t give the same feeling than leather. If you compare fast food with fine dining – you understand what I mean.”