This 29-year-old went from being a sneakerhead to a shoe customiser
Velvethoop Customs takes orders both locally and internationally.
Coveting limited edition models and the latest colourways from brands like Nike and Adidas was how self-proclaimed sneakerhead Billy Chow spent most of his youth.
Taking this hobby one step further, he began customising his own sneakers as a way to combine “(his) passion for both (painting and shoe collecting) into one”.
Eight years later, this pastime of his now makes him a full-time salary.
“I started customising my own sneakers as a hobby and just posting on social media and sneaker blogs. Soon after, I received requests from people to send in their shoes to help them customise their sneakers,” shares Billy.
While he had always been one to enjoy painting, Billy recounts having to do “a lot of online research” on the basics of drawing and painting on leather goods and sneakers, along with “a lot of trial and error on (his) own sneakers”.
He even went on to study Footwear Design and Product Development at the Textile and Fashion Industry Training Centre (TaF.tc), where he learnt about the various kinds of leather and the construction of footwear. The institute also taught him how to make mockups using softwares like Photoshop and Illustrator – skills which have proven useful to him.
A year after customising sneakers as a side hustle, Billy founded VelvetHoop Customs – his own platform where he receives requests from clients to customise their sneakers. His price ranges from $200 to $400, depending on the complexity of the design and the time and effort needed for it.
He recounts: “At the start it was stressful because some of these shoes that customers send in can be quite expensive so it’s quite pressurising to handle the shoes and to work on them carefully.
“I think subsequently, it’s trusting my own craft and skills and making sure the project ends well and turns out the way the customers wanted it to be.”
While he usually receives about two to five orders in a week, at his peak, he had 20 orders to fulfil.
As such, he shares that one of the biggest challenges he faces is time. Planning out his schedule is crucial as he needs to ensure each custom project is completed within the stipulated deadline of around three to four weeks.
Despite such steep learning curves, Billy thoroughly enjoys what he’s doing.
As someone who “never expected (this business) to blow up”, he pushes on in this line of work as “the satisfaction from creating something from scratch” and seeing customers and his social media followers enjoy his artworks drives his passion to create more.
As a shoe customiser, he has also reached several milestones such as getting asked to do live customisation sessions for big brands like Michael Kors, Aldo and Asics.
“Working with these brands (was) not something I envisioned from the start so it’s a memorable milestone for me,” he says.
A more recent achievement for Billy would be a request from a returning customer to do a design on their Maison Goyard cardholder and Givenchy handbag.
While he admits such a request is a lot more pressurising as “a Goyard cardholder costs way more than a pair of Air Force 1s”, he hopes to do more of such work in the future.
For those looking to be a shoe customiser like Billy, he advises: “Create your own style to make yourself different from other sneaker customisers.
“Doing custom shoes, wearing custom sneakers can be a way to represent yourself, your interest, in a way that normal sneakers can’t.”