Personal experiences can inspire some entrepreneurs to start companies that change the way consumers buy custom sneakers online. The Custom Movement Co-Founder Akshar Bonu, for instance, grew up in the Philippines and went to a high school that had a uniform. The students, however, could wear whatever shoes they wanted. Those became “the only piece of apparel that I had full control over,” Bonu told PYMNTS in an interview. They became the piece he used for self-expression.
When he came to the United States, however, he noticed people wanted to wear certain shoes because they were limited in quantity and something that everyone else wanted. As he dived into sneaker culture in America, Bonu said he found it “frustrating for quite a few reasons.” For one, Bonu said “it was so difficult to get the shoes that you thought were interesting.” Once those shoes drop online, they sell out almost immediately. And people who don’t come from a well-off family may find it hard to wear shoes that are bought online and resell for, say, $1,000 on online sneaker marketplaces. “It’s very difficult to wear those shoes,” Bonu said.
He looked for cool, unique sneakers and found them on Instagram. He noticed there were independent artists making custom sneakers that are not only affordably priced but way more interesting, too. It almost felt the artists were putting their souls into the shoes. But there were many challenges with finding the independent artists, so Bonu said The Custom Movement was created as “the marketplace to buy custom sneakers” by independent artists. The idea is to become one place where consumers can discover all of them and purchase them easily as well as efficiently.
To purchase the custom sneakers, consumers can browse through the designs that are currently available and find a piece that resonates with them. When it comes to different variations of sneakers on the platform, one artist made a design that has a shattered swoosh. Other sneakers have designs like reflective flames or butterflies. In other cases, sneakers have lighting, neon splash or aqua splash. One sneaker has “fruit pebbles.”
The eCommerce Experience
When it comes to the company’s eCommerce experience, customers can purchase whatever design they choose. The artist, in turn, buys the base shoe either online or from a local retailer. The artist will make the design that they ordered and ship it to them. The vast majority of orders the site gets are people ordering pre-set designs, but artists are more than willing to make specific requests. Payments go through Stripe for credit and debit cards. Artists on the platform include TA Customs, Drip Kix, SMcustoms, Born Originals, Custom Layers and Mundus Hub, among others.
Giving independent artists the platform to design and sell sneakers, Bonu said, provides them with the full creative freedom to be “as crazy or experimental as they want.” They don’t have to subscribe to a specific brand identity or produce shoes that have mass-market appeal. The sneakers on the platform end up eclectic and diverse in design as well as taste. And Bonu says everyone will find a shoe that uniquely resonates with them in a way that a big brand aiming for mass-market appeal cannot. (Overall, a report from Grand View Research, Inc. in April 2018 found that the global athletic footwear market size is forecast to reach $95.14 billion by 2025.)
Over the long term, the company aims to empower artists on its platform to scale operations and help manage inventory to help artists make their work into a full-time profession. To that end, it wants to be more involved in their operations and helping them succeed. And 10 years from now, The Custom Movement hopes that every kid in the U.S. and around the world is wearing a shoe that has been customized by an independent artist. They would have a shoe that “no one else in their high school has” and be happy to wear because it expresses their individuality while being truly unique to them.
With the help of customization and eCommerce ordering, online platforms aim to connect consumers with independent artists and unique sneakers that express their individuality.