If you were to approach New York City’s West 4 Tattoo shop on a Monday afternoon around 4:50 p.m., you might find JonBoy chasing after his Pomeranian, Gucci. At least that’s what we encountered yesterday when someone left the door open at the downtown parlor where he’s inked celebrities like Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid, and Hailey Baldwin. Gucci rushed out. JonBoy followed. Luckily, everyone turned out safe.
After recovering from that shaky moment, however, the vibe inside the two-story location was chill AF. Jonathan Valena, also known as JonBoy, wore an all-black look with studded Gucci sunglasses (he’s obsessed with the Italian fashion house and its Creative Director, Alessandro Michele) as he welcomed us to sit with Koio Collective founders Johannes Quodt and Chris Wichert to discuss what you can soon expect to find on every cool girl and cool guy’s feet: their Koio x JonBoy sneaker collaboration.
“These came out awesome. This is the first time I’m seeing them. I feel like I wanted to do something that was going to be both feminine, but also unisex. It’s that millennial pink,” JonBoy told us as he grabbed the final pink suede version of the designers’ updated low-top Gavia sneaker, which they also produced in black with a navy sole.
“At first we were thinking, you’re a tattoo artist, why don’t you do tattoos all over the shoe? I feel like you would almost expect that from a tattoo artist,” he added, explaining that after circling between 10 to 15 ideas and roughly three prototypes, they decided on a super minimal design. JonBoy’s initials are featured in Morse Code along the outer sole, while his signature handwriting is found on the insole (“Koio x JonBoy” it reads). An embossed “K” for Koio is found on the heel, too.
Together, Quodt and Wichert, two former finance guys who quit to launch Koio, explained why teaming up with JonBoy was a no-brainer. “He’s sharing the same DNA as we have with our brand,” Wichert said, explaining how their collaboration with the tattoo artist is the first of several to come with other creatives like surfer Quincy Davis, dancer James Whiteside, and ceramicist Ben Medansky. “We wanted to find these interesting artists and tell their stories through our sneakers.”
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As for who the trio wants to see in the sneakers, all signs point to Jaden Smith. “He’s had a big impact on fashion and he’s redefining what men are allowed to wear and wearing it,” Wichert said of the star. JonBoy agreed and also said he's eager to see them on Bella Hadid and Chloë Grace Moretz. We could likely expect other friends and clients like Kylie Jenner and Sofia Richie (below) to rock them, too.
“I’m excited to see the outfits they put together because a lot of the people that are going to get this sneaker are in fashion. They’re aesthetically driven. I’m curious to see what they put it together with,” JonBoy added.
Of course, JonBoy has ties to fashion’s top models, and credits Hailey Baldwin and Kendall Jenner as the stars that really introduced him to the fashion world. While he does, indeed, have a deep admiration for Michele’s designs at Gucci and the way in which the brand uses “tattoo imagery,” his dream collaborators include Kanye West, Off-White’s Virgil Abloh, and Louis Vuitton Men's Artistic Director Kim Jones. “Those are the guys that I’m looking at and watching,” he said.
Scroll down to see the Koio Collective x JonBoy sneakers ($298) and mark your calendars—you’ll find them at the sneaker brand’s N.Y.C. pop-up and KoioCollective.com on Wednesday, June 28.