We continue to broaden our scope and put the spotlight on sneakers customizers from around the globe. This week, we speak to Elom Bowman, founder of Ecentrik Artistry.
How big of a sneakerhead are you?
I’ve always loved sneakers since I was a kid. I am a big adidas fan, specifically the adidas Superstar aka Shell Toes. I’m also a huge fan of Nike Air Force 1s, Air Max 90s and Jordan Retros, my favorite models being the Jordan 1, 3, 4, 5 and 6.
Do you still have fond memories of your first pair of customized sneakers?
The first sneaker I customized was an all-white Nike Air Force 1 Low. I wanted to have pairs to go with my outfits and in colorways that weren’t available in stores. It just felt natural to combine my love of art with my love of fashion and attempt to make something out of the two.
Why call yourself “Ecentrik Artistry”?
It’s basically a description of what I feel my personal style is. I’ve always been a person who wanted to stand out from others and create stuff that I felt was outside the box, or eccentric. So I just changed the spelling of it and added the artistry part onto the end to show that I like to create unique and eye-catching art pieces with my shoes. I started customizing in late 2002 but didn’t come up with the “Ecentrik Artistry” nickname until 2008.
What type of designs do you specialize in?
My style is heavily influenced by things like graffiti, street art, pop art, and animal prints. Depending on the concept, I love to mix those elements in a lot of my work. I’m also really big on doing specific themes as well. I’m a big comic book fan and I’ve done a number of Marvel and DC themed customs as well.
What are some notable works that you have produced?
So many that I almost don’t know where to start. I just recently completed a series of customs based on the Justice League. I once did a pair of Jordan 5s for a former NFL player as well. I also made a pair of Jordan 6s based on the professional wrestling company, New Japan Pro Wrestling.
How long does it take you to customize a pair of sneakers?
As far as making an individual pair, it depends on the design being done and the detail required. A pair can take anywhere from six to 15 hours, sometimes more.
Where do most of your customers come from?
I’ve been fortunate to have a clientele that’s domestic and international since I ship all over the world. The bulk of them come from different cities within the United States but I’ve had customers from as far as Australia. Internet promotion and word of mouth both play important roles. I haven’t received any orders from Singapore but hopefully that will change very soon.
You have created quite a number of custom Jordans. Are those considered the staple of your work?
Most customers that contact me are really big into Jordan retros. Air Force 1s and Air Max 90s are also big requests of mine but Jordans are the most popular. The retros are just classic shoes with lots of history behind each pair so those will always be favorites.
Are there any notable personalities who have ordered custom sneakers from you?
Haven’t had any major big name clients yet but it’s possible that it will happen. It would be awesome to have them come along but truth be told, I didn’t get into customizing to attract celebrity names. I would definitely welcome it but I just appreciate anyone who is a fan of my product, celebrity or non-celebrity.
Have you received any strange requests?
The strangest one I can think of is, a guy who contacted me, telling me that he let a friend paint his Jordan 3s and this friend of his did not do a good job at all. He attached a picture and asked if I would be able to redo the shoes for him. I opened the picture and the shoes were done so badly, I told him that for the price and amount of work needed to redo them, that he would be better off starting over with a brand new pair. I still have that picture of the shoes to this day and even reposted them on my Instagram years ago to let people know what not to do and to leave the customizing to the professionals.
What’s the biggest challenge where it comes to customizing sneakers?
Constantly coming up with new and creative ideas and concepts. It’s a challenge that I welcome and wouldn’t want to be without because it fuels me to create and keeps my personal passion strong.
What sort of customization jobs would you not accept?
What I won’t accept is requests to outright copy the work of another customizer. If someone sends me a picture of a shoe done by another customizer and says “can you do this?” or “how much to do these?”, I’ll refer them to the original artist if I know who the artist is. I would want another artist to do that for me if the situation was reversed, so I believe in extending that courtesy to them. I prefer and love when clients contact me to do custom work for them because they want something with my personal style and/or touch, whether they have an original idea request of their own or want me to 100% come up with a theme for them.
Are there any sneaker customizers out there who inspire you?
Definitely. Guys like SBTG and Sekure D are personal favorites of mine and I enjoy seeing their work because they have signature styles where you can look at their work and automatically tell it’s theirs. This is something I always strive towards as well. I’ve even had people say they can tell my work immediately once they see it, so I think I’m on the right path.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to an aspiring sneaker customizer?
My advice to all up-and-coming customizers would be that if you want to have longevity in the business, develop and stay true to your own style, whatever that may be. Also, don’t do it just for the money and Instagram likes/follows/shoutouts. If you’re passionate about what you do, those things will come in time.
We also noticed that you also paint on high heels. How did that come about?
The high heels just came from experimentation. There would be times where I would be in public and someone would ask me questions about my sneakers and a few of those times there would be that one young lady in the group who says “I really like those but I don’t wear sneakers” so that’s when I got the idea to experiment with customizing high heels as a second option. Although custom sneakers are still the primary request, the heels have gotten a few orders and good reactions.
What are your plans for the “Ecentrik Artistry” business?
Basically just to keep growing and expanding. Aside from customizing I also do canvas paintings as well as body art. I also do photography even though it’s just a hobby at the moment. Even though I want to expand with all of these different avenues of mine, my main passion is still sneaker customization because I love the idea of a wearable canvas; it’s like a piece of art that you can take with you wherever you go. I would love to do some collaborations with boutiques and brands down the road, both big and small, and just continue to come up with outside the box concepts and make the brand more known and get it out to bigger audiences.
This interview has been edited and condensed.