Fredericton local paints shoes to combine love of fashion, art

·2 min read
Russ Customs started in January 2021 when owner Matthew Russell saw an advertisement for painted shoes on Instagram and wanted to try it for himself. ((Submitted by Matthew Russell) - image credit)
Russ Customs started in January 2021 when owner Matthew Russell saw an advertisement for painted shoes on Instagram and wanted to try it for himself. ((Submitted by Matthew Russell) - image credit)

When 24-year old Matthew Russell from Fredericton isn't at the gym or hanging out with family and friends, he's painting sneakers — with his own collection even including around 20 to 25 pairs of customized shoes.

Russ Customs started in January 2021 when Russell saw an advertisement for painted shoes on Instagram and wanted to try it for himself.

"I got the basic stuff and made a pair for myself and posted it," said Russell. "It kind of just … took off from there."

Submitted by Matthew Russell
Submitted by Matthew Russell

Sneaker culture

When Russell was younger, he said he was artistic but never found an outlet that he could sit down with for a long time.

"I've always been into shoes and clothes," he said. "After I painted that first one, I kind of fell in love with it."

Russell said most of his customers order the shoes to wear. He said he uses high-quality products and seals the designs so they can last in any weather.

But some buy the shoes just to display. Out of Russell's personal collection, he says he only wears about five pairs.

Submitted by Matthew Russell
Submitted by Matthew Russell

Russell said a small design takes a minimum of three to four hours but he's also done work that has taken 60 to 70 hours. Not including the cost of the shoes, Russell charges as little as a $100 to over $400 for complicated designs.

His main customer base is in Fredericton through word of mouth, but he's also had some pairs go as far as Ontario, and even sent a pair to Mexico.

Getting into the head space 

Submitted by Matthew Russell
Submitted by Matthew Russell

Russell says he usually uses his subjects for inspiration, especially if he's paying tribute to pop culture.

"If I'm doing a shoe that's about a show, I like to put the show on or if it's about a certain artist, I'll put the artist on," he said.

His designs range from full coverage paintings, with many of them coming from movies or TV shows to smaller designs on the side of the shoe.

Russell said his favourite are the anime customs because they allow him to be creative with patterns.

He's also proud of a pair that feature Pennywise from the movie It (2017).

Submitted by Matthew Russell
Submitted by Matthew Russell

The future 

Painting shoes is only a part-time gig for Russell, but he does hope to grow, and hopes to add nicer camera and new equipment to give the business a "premium look."

"I feel like my artwork is getting a lot better," said Russell. "I want to … [keep] just doing bigger shoes — more crazier, time-intensive shoes."

Submitted by Matthew Russell
Submitted by Matthew Russell

Russell said his favourite part about the job is trying out new things.

"I've always really loved shoes and I've always loved clothes," he said. "I just found that outlet where I could use the artistic stuff that I don't really use anywhere else [and] it just kind of meshed together really good."

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