Shoe customization will always be an integral part of the sneaker/street culture. It's all about building your identity in an otherwise design cluttered and mass produced world.
That's what James John Dycoco aka I.E.D. (Innovated Elemental Designs) has done. He has created an identity for himself in the customization world for himself and countless shoe owners as well.
A Filipino art student based in Singapore, James earned his stripes in sneaker customization from the SBTG workshops ran by custom king and legend Mark Ong AKA SBTG/Sabotage.
Coming from the idea that he can't afford the super expensive sample pairs, he decided to come up with his own versions of holy grails. Starting out as a personal pursuit, he now has clients from all over the world... a quick rise from his humble beginnings in 2014.
Get to know the man, his works and his world...
Can you give us a quick background that inspired you to customize shoes?
I started collecting sneakers after winning the Young Prudential Artist award in January of 2014, a portion of the prize money went into my growing addiction to shoes. My collection was growing but I had that itch to have something different from what other sneakerheads have. I couldn’t afford samples so I started researching if you can actually paint on leather sneakers. That’s when I found out about Angelus paints and coincidentally an admin of a sneakergroup posted in our Facebook group about a preorder.
The first one I made was a Sin City themed custom using my personal pair of Air Jordan 4 Fire Reds. I started offering midsole repaints after that while I practiced more on my own pairs. By latter half of 2014, I started Innovated Elemental Designs.
From your collection, what pairs do you rock on the regular? Share with us your holy grails too!
Focusing more on customs, I started selling off most of my collection to upgrade my equipment and to stock up on a wider variety of paints. So now I’m left with 10 pairs at the least, a modest size compared to a typical sneakerhead. Most of those are pairs I’m supposed to customize for myself but can never find the time cause of the amount of work I do. Now I go about wearing either an adidas Stan Smith or my ID-ed Superstar.
I grew up playing tennis so my grails are the 2014 Nike Air Tech Challenge II SP Collection inspired by Wimbledon, US Open, French Open and Australian Open. I currently have the Wimbledon edition but might have to get another one since they’re pretty beat up too. My ultimate grail though is the white Nike Zoom Vapor 9 AJ3 collaboration for Roger Federer.
Who’s behind the I.E.D Customs team?
I.E.D. Customs has technically been a one man team since it started. From attending to customer inquiries, creating photoshop mockups, prep work, painting and then photographing the final output. I do get my friends to help out once in a while when I do free ID painting services but for the most part, it’s just me. With regards to running the business, I regularly consult my eldest sister who worked as a Senior Project Manager in a media group here in Singapore and my parents who are both former three-term municipal Mayors of my hometown.
First thing that comes to mind:
My favourite design would be the ASICS Gel Lyte III “Tokyo Ghoul” Customs. I’m a fan of the manga and anime adaptation so I was very much enthusiastic when my client commissioned for a Tokyo Ghoul themed customs. With pretty much free reign over the design, I decided to add glow in the dark details in as well as heat sensitive paint to symbolise Ken Kaneki’s half-ghoul state.
Most popular work
The adidas NMD R1 “Monochrome” Customs are definitely my most popular. It was featured in KicksOnFire’s IG and Modern Notoriety’s IG and Facebook and is still going viral in IG, Twitter and even Tumblr.
Most challenging design
Each design has its challenges but the hardest would be the Air Force 1 “SG 50” Customs I made to commemorate Singapore’s 50th Independence Day. It looks simple but I had to dye and hand stitch the velcro loop panels onto the shoe. It also comes with a 50 piece patch set that I designed and laser etched and cut.
If you were to customize a shoe that represents who you are, what shoe would it be and how would it look like?
Wow. This is a hard one. Well as a customizer I pretty much work around my clients’ preferences or requests but if I were to create a customized shoe that represents me then it has to relate to me as a fine art practitioner. I like to create questions rather than provide answers through my photographs and other works. So if I were to customize a shoe to embody that then it would be an inkblot, like those used in Rorschach tests, painted in thermochromic and photochromic paint so it constantly changes when in contact with light or temperature. As for the base, it would either be an Air Jordan 3 or 4 since those are my favorite silhouettes to work on.
You mentioned that you’re planning to share your craft secrets, can you give us a glimpse on how you plan to do it?
I don’t want to divulge so much information as I’m still working out the kinks, but what I can share is that I.E.D. aims to bring customization to a wider audience, as well as incorporate traditional Filipino designs and craftsmanship into our designs.
Your tips for up and coming artists who wants to enter the shoe customizing scene.
Educate yourself, keep practicing, respect yourself and your fellow artists. To be a sneaker artist you will need a solid foundation not only in the how to’s of painting but also in the how to’s of working with different materials for sneakers to achieve your desired results.
Keep practicing your drawing skills and customize your own sneakers before offering your services to others.
Respect your fellow artists and never replicate their original design/iconic look without their permission or without giving them credit. Most of all, respect yourself and your craft. Don’t do work for free or for less than what it’s owed.
Who's the customizer that got you into the game? Your inspiration?
Being an art student, I had initial training in painting and drawing before transitioning to sneakers. But what leveled up my game tremendously was the few hours I studied under SBTG during one of his workshops. His works have zero brush marks. It’s like the patterns were computer printed onto the leather before they were made into sneakers. And he stays true to his own style, something I want to be able to do someday.
For you, what does it mean to be Shoephoric?
To be Shoephoric is to be amongst friends and family (because not everyone can understand our addiction to sneakers).
Shout outs goes to the JAD Family, BSDL, Libon, Albay (my hometown)
My sneakerfam and supporters in SneakyHeads SG, Pinoy SGkicks Collectors, Legazpi Sneakerheads Community, SG Sneakerheads, SG Dopekicks, Pinoy Sneakerheads Singapore, Pinoy Sneakerheads Community and in SoleSlam Manila.
My fellow Sneaker artists Jon Timbre, Kixflipped Customs & TK Customs and other fellow customizers in Nothing But Customs & Custom Sneakers Only.
To NO AGENDA for supplying our custom laces. And to BLK 153 for my fave froyo.
To founders and organizers of Sole Superior SG for another successful event.
To the Sneaks and Snacks family for introducing me to the Shoephoric Team who made this feature possible. Thank you all.
Photo credits: James John Dycoco and Andreas Krisanto