In this series, we talk to a new wave of sneaker customizers coming out of Singapore. First up is Innovated Elemental Designs, headed by a very young and talented sneakerhead.
When he’s not busy finishing up his degree in Fine Arts at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, James John Dycoco is busy tinkering with new methods of customizing sneakers under his own label, Innovated Elemental Designs (IED). The sneaker enthusiast started off collecting Air Jordans, though he professes that his collection is modest compared to other collectors. These days, James spends less time buying sneakers, and more time working on his customization and restoration business.
How did you get into sneaker customization?
One reason was that I wanted to repaint a few of my Air Jordan 4s since their midsole paints started cracking. Another reason was that my sneaker hobby was getting too expensive and I wanted to get something out of it rather than just owning and collecting sneakers. I first started out with midsole repaints on my pairs and some from close friends, before moving on to full customs.
What kind of designs do you specialize in?
I work around themes or ideas provided by my clients, but I tend to opt for a more graphic and minimalist approach to their designs. I am working on releasing a collection by next year featuring my own designs.
Are there any notable custom creations that you have produced?
The most challenging custom I’ve done to date is the Nike Air Force 1 “SG50”. The design itself is quite simple but I had to hand-stitch velcro loop panels for the laser-cut patches I made to go with the sneakers. My other favorite works are the Air Jordan 4 “Greyscale Camo” and the Air Jordan 4 “Saludo” (tribute to the fallen 44 Filipino soldiers) and my more recent works: Reebok Twilight Zone “Ghostbusters” and Air Jordan 1 Lance Mountain x Nike SB “X-Men vs Avengers”.
How long does it usually take to customize a pair of sneakers?
Working with multiple pairs in a single month, my minimum turnaround time is one and a half months. But it all depends on the design.
Which sneaker brands and silhouettes do customers usually want customized?
The most common base I’ve customized is the Air Jordan 4. But I do get a lot of requests to turn Air Jordan 1 lasers into hyped colorways such as Fragments, Breds or Royals.
Have you received any strange requests?
I do get a ton of unusual requests but the most extreme one is a hentai CardCaptor Sakura design on an Air Force 1 Low.
What’s the biggest challenge regarding customizing sneakers?
I guess mainly keeping up with the workload I get every month and accommodating my growing clientele. It’s both a good and bad thing so my next step is building a team to be able to serve my clients better and deliver products at a faster rate.
What sort of customization jobs would you not accept?
For now, I don’t accept any type of customs on a patent leather base. Also, I tend to refuse requests to do an exact replica of a fellow customizer’s original design.
Is sneaker customization gaining popularity in Singapore? Why do you think so?
I believe it is. I’m aware of a few groups here that do customizations and I know of a few who do their own pairs for fun or just to be different. I think mainly because the brands can only do as much and can’t fit everyone’s tastes. And for those who do want something unique but can’t find a factory made pair, they come to us.