Talking with Koji Suzuki

For Koji Suzuki, the Japanese mastermind behind Spigola, the most interesting part of being a shoemaker also happens to be the most difficult.

“There are a lot of skills and techniques involved in making a shoe. This includes designing the shoe, physically carving a wooden last, and making sure the upper is well defined when it is stretched across the last. However, the trickiest part is blending all of these disciplines and techniques together to create the finished product,” he explains.

“That said, no two days are the same. One day I might be making shoe patterns. Another day I will be polishing shoes. And then there are days where I get to choose what I do. That’s what I like most about my job – I get to pick what I do and still feel very involved in the process of making shoes.”

Suzuki’s foray into this profession began long before he was born, when his father designed women’s shoes in a factory. Believing that he would follow a similar path, he decided to study shoe design in Italy – the country he believes to be most renowned for making shoes. His career path veered dramatically when, by chance, he visited the workshop of Florentine shoemaker Roberto Ugolini.

“Visiting Roberto’s workshop left such a deep impression on me that I eventually decided to switch my career and focus on men’s shoes. I started from nothing back then and had very little money. But under Roberto’s tutelage, I started learning how to make shoes from square one. I also learned how to make Italian style shoes suited for Italian men. Altogether, I worked with him for three and a half years,” Suzuki says.

Whilst Suzuki now runs his own shoe brand based out of his Kobe workshop with his younger brother and two employees, influences of his Italian past still remain. Both the company’s name, Spigola, and his family surname, Suzuki, refer to the seabass fish in Italian and Japanese, respectively. Some materials that he uses to create his shoes also come from Italy. That said, he also imports some of his raw components from France and Germany.

Suzuki elaborates: “I’ve specifically imported from these countries because they are already known for making beautiful shoes. They are also known for producing leathers which support the shoemaking industry. The leathers especially have a very luxurious quality to them, with the right kind of color and luster that one would want from a special pair of bespoke shoes.”

For those keen to purchase a pair of Spigola shoes at The Armoury, there are two options available: made-to-measure and bespoke. The difference lies in the level of customization and measurements. Whilst Suzuki will take measurements for both choices, the bespoke option uses sketches of the foot on paper and also takes into account other factors such as injuries and fallen arches.

Customers can also choose from an array of leathers – a range that varies each time depending on the kinds of exciting materials that Suzuki discovers. Some of the shoemaker’s most favored skins include exotic and unconventional leathers like elephant, crocodile, llama, kangaroo and pigskin.

While there are many options to choose from, Koji admits that his favorite is still an Oxford cap-toe brogue because of its classic, simple shape and timeless design. Pair this with one of the unconventional leathers that Spigola has on offer and the result is an interesting exemplar of his unique style.

The Armoury hosts Koji Suzuki several times at both our New York and Hong Kong locations. Check out Events section for the latest trunk shows.