Awujo Studios Sneaker Designs Achieve International Recognition
At 25, Keron Nelson’s sneaker game is already enough to eventually rival veteran sneakerheads.
Nelson has around 20 pairs in his personal collection – including popular brands Nike Air Force 1 and Jordan – with many other pairs he has designed for local and overseas customers as far away as Norway.
Nelson, owner of Awujo Studios, candidly tells Newsday how he was able to turn his hobby into a profitable business that is gaining popularity in the sneaker world.
Sneakerheads is a term used to describe someone who wears and collects sneakers as a hobby, and the already massive following grows every year with the release of designer shoes, some of which are branded with popular sports personalities.
However, overpriced designer sneakers are not the only way to enjoy cool kicks, as many people prefer unique designs, which has given rise to trends such as painting and drawing patterns on shoes. new and old sneakers.
The name, Awujo, has significant meaning to Nelson, meaning society in Yoruba.
Nelson, who only started creating designs on sneakers as a personal hobby, was able to sell himself on social media and has since gained international recognition for his work.
“While I was at the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT), I sold clothes to make money, then I came across customization and decided to give it a try” , did he declare. “The idea was to customize shoes and t-shirts to sell alongside the shoes, and then the shoes became the main thing.”
Nelson started in business in 2016, during his second year studying physical education. He now works at a primary school, preparing grade four students for their Secondary Entrance Examinations (SEA) and works part-time on his sneaker business.
He has since turned his bedroom in his Princes Town home into a studio and hopes to one day have a showcase, eventually offering lessons to others who want to learn how to transform their shoes.
Although he had no formal training, he started drawing and sketching some of his favorite anime characters in the third form.
“I’m just trying to create something new, something that’s never been done before. I’d take different shows, mainly Naruto (a popular anime). It’s my favorite show. It influenced me a lot .
“I’ve always loved drawing and while watching the show I started drawing the characters and developed my drawing skills there.”
Eventually, people started taking notice of his designs and asking him to do the same with their favorite TV and movie characters, he said.
After promoting himself and his brand on various social media sites for sneakerheads, he got a few international orders from Canada, Georgia, California and New York, Israel and from Norway.
“Sneaker pages on Instagram would promote custom shoes like what I do. Because these are foreign pages, foreigners contact me from time to time.
He said there are pages, such as The Custom Movement on Instagram, that promote designs from around the world. “Any artist can join and upload content. I have achieved international sales since I joined last year.
Nelson also makes larger canvases. His favorite right now is a large painting of four Naruto characters.
One of his favorite sneaker designs is a shoe brand he made for his birthday. “I put my branding on a shoe for the first time. I did it in a way where I changed the Nike sign on the shoe. I have a bunch of shoes that I made for customers who may also be favorites.
He said that although he sometimes provided the shoes, customers often brought their shoes to him to design them.
“I can work on any type of leather (including) most Nike Air Force 1s or Jordan 1s. Air Force 1s are a popular shoe. It’s always trending. It has good panels to work on (and) it’s good at color blocking and character drawing.
“You have the room. It is ideal for working. There are others that people don’t know about, but this one is the most popular with consumers. Most people will have an all white in their collection.
Although he has nearly 20 shoes in his collection, Nelson joked that he wears the same pairs almost every day. “I take the same two every time I go out. I try to wear more.
The price of his creations can vary from $500 to $1,500, depending on the details requested by the client.
Nelson designed a pair for soca artist Nailah Blackman based on her song Bodum Bodum. He presented it to her on July 16.
“I presented Nailah Blackman with her very own custom sneaker which features a design based on the music video for her song Bodum Bodum. The sneaker is painted a light peach, with waves and horses to represent the scenes from the music video’s intro The tongue tags have been removed and replaced with the song title Bodum Bodum, and to top it all off, I’ve added an extra pair of peach-colored laces across the top of the sneaker.”
Nelson said he has also been working on more personal elements, such as creating his own characters along with a short story.
Although he paused the project to work on other things, he said that represented the type of concepts he would like to work on in the future. “I made it last year and took it out for Emancipation Day. People liked that.
Nelson said he would like to travel to the United States to see how his work is received. “It’s just to try somewhere else, see how it goes and see the response.”
He also said that due to the success of his business, he may also take business courses in the future to further develop his entrepreneurial skills.
“I developed a taste for business,” he said, adding that he would like to develop his already growing brand.
“Maybe if I get big enough, I can play sports too, even open a sports academy.
Nelson recently entered Republic Bank’s Art of Banking competition, where he won the People’s Choice award for credit card design.
He can be reached through his Instagram page @rocci_boyyy or 322-4569.