Whenever I make changes to a past work, I always feel nervous. The days of walking with the product are on my mind, and I am very unsure whether the choice to change the specifications was the right one or the wrong one.
The FIORANO, the predecessor of the latest KINGSTON, was a model that made us feel this very strongly. The gimmick of the double monk strap, a traditional upper design with a driving rubber sole, and the concept of detachment by means of a duralumin hook, seem to have been designed in a way that is hardly sensible, even nowadays.
At the time of its release, I remember that I wasn't very confident that the 'unique' system would really be accepted by users. It was a very challenging experiment, but perhaps because it was easy to enjoy two different types of comfort in a casual hook-and-loop system, and because it was easy to drive, despite its classic look, the model was much more popular than its creators had expected, and it soon became so well-loved that it was even used in car development. It became a much-loved model that was even used in car development.
It was about a year and a half ago that the metal used for the Fiorano hooks had to be changed. I had always felt that the hook's strength and usability could be modified, and I was intrigued not only by the modification of the hook but also by the development of a new double monk shoe. Lifestyles are diversifying day by day and the environment surrounding the automobile. Products must be in tune with the times, while retaining a strong concept.
The following Designers' Notes record the design insights and attention to detail that took place over a year and a half. We hope that by making you aware of these processes, you will feel more familiar with the Kingston model.
Foreword ｜ 21 December 2022
Reinterpreted hook design
The most distinctive feature of the KINGSTON is the hook system, which allows for two different wearing styles: relaxed and tight. The initial hooks were made of lightweight duralumin and had a very simple design, but the hooks were thin and did not catch the fingers, making them difficult to put on and take off. It was easier to remove by putting a finger on the tip and pushing it in, but it was quite difficult to remove with one hand in dark or cramped places, and sometimes took a lot of time at the entrance if the metal fittings gripped the strap tightly. In addition, the early duralumin hooks, which were lightweight and rather slim, had problems in terms of strength, and if they got caught on something or were subjected to a stronger load than expected, the tip would sometimes bend. At the time, the focus was only on the changes in comfort that occurred when putting on and taking off the shoes, and it could be said that not enough attention was paid to the user interface.
The first focus was on ease of wearing and removal. In order to improve on the unwieldiness of conventional hooks, significant changes had to be made to the volume of the fittings themselves. The initial concept was inspired by the wheel of a lighter or the firing hammer of a revolver. The aim was to achieve a quick unhooking action by placing the thumb on the hook and rotating it, instead of the conventional 'pinch and pull' action.
The prototype and manufacturing was not carried out by a shoe hardware company, but by Tone Manufacturing, a company specialising in various types of precision sheet metal processing. The metals themselves that can be used are much more flexible than those of a formal shoe hardware company. In addition, Tone's unique handwork was very appealing, as they are well versed in their own cultivated cutting and polishing techniques.
In the concept model, an indentation was added to the top of the hook to make it easier to place a finger on the hook, and a jagged edge of about 0.6 mm was also added to the tip of the hook and the puller to make it easier to grip the thumb and to apply the fingertip when removing the hook.
This distinctive gear-like design was favoured by the developers as it was effective in conveying intuitively the position of the fingertips, but it was abandoned for the production version after several prototypes due to the possibility of damaging the monk's belt and interior.
Stainless steel was chosen as the material for the revised design of the production version of the "Hammer hook". Stainless steel is one of the metals that Tone is very good at processing. In previous versions of the hook, the metal was cut and stripped of burrs and bite marks, but this time, after precision laser cutting, two more intricate finishes were applied.
The first is black dyeing, which is mainly used to prevent rust on iron and steel products. This is a finishing method that produces a 1µ oxide film on the surface. Because it is stainless steel, unlike steel, there is no risk of rusting, but the dull, shiny blackness and the rugged impression it gives create an industrial atmosphere that is very attractive.
The second is a laser-cut hammer hook that is polished in the barrel for a long time to give it a mirror finish. This is a very beautiful finish that only Tone Seisakusho, which specialises in polished stainless steel products such as cookware, could produce. Both finishes are full of charm that is hard to beat.
Focus on the details
KINGSTON was thoroughly concerned with the pattern in search of the ideal balance. The slightly loose round toe of the previous model was compatible with casual styles, but the silhouette was somewhat unsuitable for wearing with set-ups and business suits; KINGSTON sought a pattern that would be more compatible with suit styles and give a sense of class and sharpness when worn. In particular, the relationship between the length and angle of the monk strap and the toe shape has been thoroughly adjusted down to the smallest detail.
For the basic buckle, a compact 16 mm wide double buckle with rollers was chosen. The buckle has a clean shape but is thick in volume, giving it a stylish impression. The relationship between the hammer hook and buckle, which can be an odd balance, was kept as natural and harmonious as possible. The barrel silver hooks have an attractive, strong jewellery-watch-like shine that complements the chrome-finished buckle. On the other hand, the black-dyed black hook has a slightly more restrained impression, but its rugged look at a moment's notice tickles the man's heart.
Carrying on the function and values
KINGSTON's design was developed based on a dress sole (D2R sole) tailored for driving soles, which aims to combine aesthetics and functionality. The D2R sole looks at first glance like a double sole when viewed from the side, but in fact the entire upper is covered by a special welt core made of rubber core rolled up with cowhide leather. In fact, the sole is only about 7 mm thick on the ground surface because the entire upper is covered by a special welt core with a rubber core wrapped around it in nubuck leather. The rubber part is made of ultra-lightweight Viblam Gumlight®︎, which is produced only at the Vibram factory in Italy, so you can enjoy a lightness and comfort that belies its appearance. This Italian-made Vibram sheet is also a very rare material, as it is almost never available on the Japanese market. The sole's surface is covered entirely with small air bubbles, giving it a crepe sole-like softness when walking. When driving, the moderate grip balance is exquisitely effective.
The Shoe last uses the new GRV type, which has been used since the "Monoposto" launched in 2022. This one uses the same sole gauge (bottom dimension) as the Grand Prix High-Top and Spearhead, so the sizing is almost identical. KINGSTON offers two types of wearing comfort: loose when unhooked and tight when hooked.
On the other hand, the KINGSTON can optionally be fitted with a *driving rubber sole (ARS sole), as in previous models. In this case, the heel is positioned slightly lower, so the insole is also changed to a bucket insole with high driving performance.
Hand-crafted and profoundly coloured.
KINGSTON continues to use the two types of material used in the previous model. Smoking calf, which is soft and easy to give an emotional expression to, is a leather synonymous with Negroni. A strong burnished finish on the toe cap gives it a dressy feel and a beautiful shade of deep gloss. Tuscan suede is another leather material that works extremely well with the double monk strap design. The suede material has a long, relaxed look, but its water-repellent coating also complements the mature styling with plenty of room to spare.
And, of special note is the special wet track calf, which is finished with patina dyes. The colouring is done slowly over a long period of time in order to achieve a fine and luxurious colour. From the time of cutting to the base dyeing, before bottoming and during finishing, the colour is applied in several different shades in order to create a truly transparent shade. For this reason, lighter colours are chosen for the original colour and used as the base colour. Incidentally, the original colour of Black Iron started as a grey. The black leather is generally black with reddish tints, but the black tone is characterised by a slight deep greenish tinge.
After attaching the sole, a mixture of naturally derived essential oils and patina dyes made by Avel of France are applied. The process of balancing the colour tone with the welt line is a very special moment in the creation of a pair of shoes.
The idea of continuation
After we announced the suspension of production of the Fiorano, we received various comments from many people. Along with the gratifying and apologetic fact that so many people regretted the suspension of production, we also learnt that this model has penetrated deeper into the automotive and business worlds than we had imagined. Therefore, with the launch of the Kingston, Negroni is preparing a service whereby Fiorano can order a reissue in the form of a 'continuation'.
Although parts and specifications will need to be slightly changed from previous models, Negroni believes that this is a service that is unique to Negroni, as it is possible to create a custom-made product that retains as much as possible the atmosphere of the time when the car was launched, just like a continuation of a classic car. There are special rules that are unique to continuations, such as the time period and materials used, but we want to provide an environment where people can easily enjoy the reissue of old models.