When 24-year-old Matthew Russell of Fredericton isn’t at the gym or hanging out with family and friends, he paints sneakers – with his own collection even including around 20-25 pairs of custom shoes.
Russ Customs started in January 2021 when Russell saw an advert for painted shoes on Instagram and wanted to try it out for himself.
“I got the basic stuff and made a pair for myself and posted it,” Russell said. “It kind of just… took off from there.”
When Russell was younger, he said he was artistic but never found an outlet he could sit with for long.
“I’ve always loved shoes and clothes,” he said. “After painting this first one, I 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 show them off. From Russell’s personal collection, he says he only wears about five pairs.
Russell said a small design takes at least three to four hours, but he’s also done work that took 60 to 70 hours. Not including the cost of shoes, Russell charges as little as $100 to over $400 for intricate designs.
His main clientele is in Fredericton through word of mouth, but he’s also taken a few pairs to Ontario and even sent a pair to Mexico.
Russell says he usually uses his subjects for inspiration, especially if he’s paying homage to pop culture.
“If I’m making 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, many of which are from movies or TV shows, to smaller designs on the side of the shoe.
Russell said his favorites are anime customs because they allow him to be creative with patterns.
He’s also proud of a pair that features Pennywise from the movie. This (2017).
Painting shoes is just a part-time job for Russell, but he hopes to grow and hopes to add a nicer camera and new gear to give the business a “premium look”.
“I feel like my artwork is getting a lot better,” Russell said. “I want … [keep] just make bigger shoes – crazier shoes that take a lot of time.”
Russell said his favorite part of the job was trying new things.
“I’ve always really liked shoes and I’ve always liked clothes,” he said. “I just found this outlet where I could use the art stuff that I really don’t use anywhere else [and] it kind of tied together really well.”