The anti-hypebeast sneaker shop

The Face speaks to the co-founder of The Custom Movement, an online marketplace trading custom kicks at purse-friendly prices in a bid to restructure the resale market.

Akshar Bonu has always loved sneakers. It’s a passion he cultivated as a teenager in school in the Philippines where the lax footwear policy allowed him to turn to sneakers as a form of self-expression. And without anyone dictating which brands were cool or which models would gain him street credibility, Bonu grew up free from the trap of what he refers to as monoculture”. He was free to develop his own sense of style, creativity and – most importantly – a lifelong love and knowledge of unique kicks.

It was upon moving to America in 2013 that Bonu became aware of a more toxic side to the scene. Sneaker culture wasn’t accessible to me [there],” he explains. It was impossible to get the sneakers I wanted for retail [price] due to the intense demand and limited supply, yet I did not have enough money to buy them for resale.” 

For someone unfamiliar with hypebeast sneaker culture, the impossibility to cop hyped drops and expensive resale market goods could be majorly frustrating. Understandably, he chose to look elsewhere. 

By chance, I stumbled upon the work of Dominic Ciambrone, also known as the Shoe Surgeon,” explains Bonu. Dominic was creating the most unique Nike sneakers I had ever seen through the art of customisation.” Falling in love with what could be described as the most creative form of Nike fan art, Bonu delved further into what he quickly found out was a much larger culture of customisation happening on Instagram, driven almost entirely by young creatives from across the globe. Helmed by the likes of the destroyed Swoosh by TA Customs and the Kanagawa Swoosh by Nikoswoosh.

Bonu attributes this phenomenon to the influence of trailblazing designers like Kanye West, Virgil Abloh, and Jerry Lorenzo”, who use customisation and various ownable design hacks as a way in which to influence the sneaker world while infiltrating culture on a broader level. For example, Abloh’s brand Pyrex Vision, that sold customised deadstock Ralph Lauren and Champion apparel for upwards of $550425) – despite Abloh being a fashion world outsider at the time.

To me, customisation felt like a cultural movement and a zeitgeist moment where independent creatives finally had agency over sneaker culture: what could be made and what it should represent,” says Bonu. Tapping into this space and putting his sneaker intel to good use, he decided to launch The Custom Movement, an online marketplace (backed by Y Combinator) that’s in place to democratise the resale market, while supporting emerging creatives.

Bonu’s mission is simple: to provide the infrastructure that legendary brands give their designers to anyone”. Right now it’s customer base is almost entirely below the age of 22 and they offer online real estate to 270 artists (which means there are over 7,000 remixed sneakers to shop). Customers can buy Air Force 1s with deconstructed, neon pink Swooshes or white reflective Converse Chucks priced at just $265200) and $185140) respectively. The youngest designer is just 14 years old, while the most popular is based in the Netherlands, highlighting the movement’s inclusive global roots. 

As for the future, Bonu has plans to expand into tailor-made clothes, handbags and even furniture. In the meantime, meet three of the artists currently selling bespoke sneakers on The Custom Movement. 

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@wuuski

Tell us a bit about yourself: 

I’m originally from Hartford, Connecticut and have been customising sneakers for over four years now. 

When did you start customising trainers?

I started customising shoes in 2014 when I was a freshman (1st year) in high school. I just hated people having the same sneakers as me.

What do you like about customisation?

Customising is more personal, and creates a larger range of expression for myself and for my clients.

How did you find out about The Custom Movement?

The Custom Movement messaged me on Instagram to see if I was interested in partnering with them! I looked at their page and their marketplace and I thought it would be a great way to gain clientele and for customers to have a range of artists and styles to shop from.

How would you describe your style?

My style is all about colours and cartoons. It’s really for anyone that doesn’t want people wearing the same sneakers as them!

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@namirabcreations

Tell us a bit about yourself: 

I was born and raised in Dubai, U.A.E. I’m a 29-year-old master of marketing grad with an artistic edge. I’ve been a fine artist and painter since high school, and a self-taught graphic designer. These are two aspects of my background that drive me to create art on sneakers. 

When did you start customising trainers? 

I’ve always had an artistic side but my husband is the reason I got started with customising a year ago. We decided to join our business minds and create something fun with my art skills so we created our brand, Namira B. Creations. I’ve been customising for a year, but we only recently launched our brand online and globally one month ago.

What do you like about customisation?

I’ve always been that person who would make ordinary things artsy. I’ve been creating paintings since I was 15, and I have a knack for recreating artsy masterpieces out of ordinary things. I used to paint my bags, sometimes denim jackets, all kinds of things before getting into shoes. What I love about customising is creating something unique.

How did you find out about The Custom Movement?

I was scrolling through profiles on Instagram, looking for some fresh new pages to give me some inspiration, as well as some collaboration opportunities, when I stumbled across TCM’s Instagram page. I was wowed by their content, it was such a wonderfully consolidated community of very unique, impressive customisers from all over the world.

How would you describe your style?

I’m a professional colour lover, always looking to create designs with striking colour combinations and colour gradients. My style is defined by a very colourful colour palette! 

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@thecreparchitect

Tell us a bit about yourself: 

My name is Zak Farooq. I am from Manchester, England. Self-employed and I studied architecture at Liverpool John Moores. My hobbies are art and fashion.

When did you start customising trainers?

I did my first ever custom around May last year and I have been customising ever since.

What do you like about customisation?

Being able to put your ideas and artistry on to something like a sneaker and creating things you’ve never seen before that you can’t buy from stores.

How did you find out about The Custom Movement?

I heard about The Custom Movement from Instagram and thought they were a great way to grow my brands and get more exposure.

How would you describe your style?

I’d say my style is pretty unique. [My sneakers are] appealing to the eyes yet subtle in their own ways.


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