In this series, we talk to a new wave of sneaker customizers coming out of Singapore. This week, we feature Crow Customs, a one-man sneaker customization outfit that also dabbles in restoration work.
It was two years ago when Joshua Lumain, then pursuing an engineering degree, founded Crow Customs as a means of letting his love for art and sneakers flourish. Today, he is back in school, this time obtaining a degree in design communication at LASALLE College of the Arts and using his new-found knowledge as a designer to refine his sneaker customization and restoration work.
Firstly, do you consider yourself a sneakerhead?
I can’t consider myself a sneakerhead because I don’t really follow upcoming releases or current trends, but I guess I can consider myself a collector since I have way more than I need. I am not particular about brands. As long as they are comfortable and look good on my feet, I’d surely score them.
How did you get into sneaker customization?
I have always wanted to stand out or be different to say the least. I remember designing my own silkscreen t-shirts and painting artworks on my backpacks when I was still in high school. But what sparked my interest in customizing sneakers was an article I read back in 2009. It was about a collaboration between SBTG and DJ Inquisitive, where they created a custom pair of Chuck Taylors as a tribute to Michael Jackson and called it “Thriller”. That was when my thirst for creating art on sneakers started. YouTube and Internet forums became my best friends as they provided me with the necessary knowledge. Back then, I thought it was just as easy as painting on a regular canvas — grab a brush, dip it in paint, and apply. It was way more than that. Through the years, I’ve learned that there different ways of handling the sneaker’s material – be it canvas, leather, suede, nubuck etc. It’s a systematic process and there are particular steps one has to follow in order for the artwork to last and achieve wearable art.
What type of designs do you specialize in?
I can’t say that I specialize in a particular style or design. I like to keep myself open to any design so as to improve and hone my skills. My works vary from conceptual pieces based on themes, to repetitive patterns and prints. Personally, I love doing work that’s inspired by themes or those that are based on what clients tell me they’re passionate about, or if they want the pair as a tribute to someone or something. I love having the freedom to produce my own designs. It challenges me as an artist because it pushes me to create designs that bring out a certain concept or idea, and even one’s personality.
How long does it usually take to customize a pair of sneakers?
I usually ask my clients to give me a week or two, really because of the volume of pairs that come in. That usually gives me enough time to deliver. But if it was based on the time that I allocate per pair, it can vary from hours to days depending on the complexity of the design.
Which sneaker brands and silhouettes do customers usually want customized?
Majority of my works were done on Nike silhouettes such as Janoskis, Roshes, Airmax 1s and 90s. But I have works on Adidas, Converse Chuck Taylor, and Vans as well. Sometimes, I also get to work on New Balance, PUMA, and even Palladium.
Have you received any strange requests?
There was instance that I worked with bowling shoes. I just had to change its colorway. I know they’re not sneakers, but at the top of my head, they’re probably the strangest request I encountered. Also, I was asked to restore a pair of Nike Solarsoft Moccasins. The client used the pair while he was karting and didn’t notice that the heel of his left shoe was being dragged on the floor as he was driving. The shoe looked like it had been eaten up when I received them. Basically he wanted me to re-shape the midsole. It was a challenging task but thankfully I managed to do it.
What’s the biggest challenge in customizing sneakers?
I guess the biggest challenges are to keep improving my skills and creating unique ideas. I am really thankful for Instagram because it has helped me connect with a lot of customizers globally. They have kept me inspired and driven to do better. I have still a lot to learn. Next thing I want to touch on is deconstruction-reconstruction. It’s much more tedious and time-consuming but I guess it would get me a step further to becoming a legitimate sneaker customizer.
What sort of customization jobs would you not accept?
I have tried making monotone pairs in the past and learned that it was a waste of paint and I personally didn’t like the idea. Also, I get a lot of requests on changing the color of the midsoles. Again, I’ve tried doing it as well but encountered certain issues with making it last with regular usage. I guess these are the types of projects I will no longer accept.
Is sneaker customization gaining popularity in Singapore? Why do you think so?
For me, popularity is a strong word. I guess it’s gaining awareness and has been getting attention. Why else would the number of customizers increase if there were no market for it? I guess it has yet to flourish.