Art has always been a passion of mine, from enjoying design in my spare time to studying it at A-Level and then having it integrated into my university studies of Architectural Engineering. I always find myself steering back to art.
The first COVID lockdown gave me time to sit down and work on art more than I had been able to do for years. As many weird habits and hobbies sparked from lockdown, so did my passion for painting trainers. My friend came to me one day with a scruffy pair of trainers, he wanted to give them a new lease of life and introduced me to the idea of custom shoes. This was something I had never heard of and went along with it! I painted a (very scruffy) wave onto his trainers for him with some sharpies I found lying about.
If I was told back then where this one little £10 job would take me to, I wouldn’t believe it. By the end of lockdown, I had painted around 60 pairs of shoes, selling them across the UK and globally from Etsy. I was learning about the art of customisation and became fascinated by this new trend. Whilst I loved painting shoes, I also saw the business opportunity with it. I invested in professional paints, products, and equipment to develop my art and to try to perfect the skill of creating customs which I now realised was a very complex and intricate process!
I joined up with my friend from school, Dan, who has had experience with website development, and we came up with a business model for The Customs Project. After countless hours of chatting about ideas and concepts, on the 11th January 2021 The Customs Project website went live. We instantly received attention on social media and Google, and having received more orders than we knew what to do with, we started growing our team of artists. As most were based in Leeds, I would run between their houses collecting and dropping off shoes. Sometimes with nearly 20 pairs of shoes scattered over my University bedroom I would package and ship the shoes all around the world! It was amazing, I couldn’t believe how quickly this niche hobby had escalated into an actual business!
After many ups and downs, it is now nearly two years later since our website went live on the 11th January 2022. We have painted over 200 pairs of shoes and have established ourselves as a recognisable name within the custom shoes industry. And, as of recently, we have gone international! With two artists based in the USA. We obviously have an incredibly long way to go and are nowhere near where we want to be, but I am incredibly proud of what we have created in the space of two years.
Now that we have reached the end of 2022 it is a great to have a little look back at what we have achieved. I hope you enjoy our designs, and here’s to another year of The Customs Project!
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