Troy “Kickasso” Cole is revered in the sneaker world for his stellar customs. But the artist is about to offer something aside from reimagined kicks using today’s top sneakers.
Within roughly a year, Cole said, he will have his own label boasting original footwear designs. The brand — dubbed K_O — will launch with a lifestyle-inspired silhouette, a basketball/training shoe-inspired look and a cleat.
“I’m designing them straight from scratch, going to try and piggyback my Kickasso name and see how much market share it carries,” Cole told Footwear News.
This reputation in custom sneakers and foray into footwear design is coming from someone with no background in footwear.
“I’m a custom car painter by trade. Once I sold my body shop in 2011, it gave me time to do some things that were different,” Cole explained. “I started painting canvases of shoes like Jordans in an abstract manner, which was weird to me, [and sold the canvases] by posting them on Instagram. Someone suggested, ‘Why don’t you try to paint a shoe?’ I did, and through Instagram, it slowly built to this monster that it is now.”
After unloading his Automotive Techniques door in South Carolina, Cole and his team now occupy a studio on Spring Street in downtown Los Angeles. Created in this space are custom looks for renowned athletes and entertainers including NBA icon LeBron James, star NFL wide receiver Dez Bryant and famed Atlanta-based rapper T.I.
But the most attention Cole receives comes from the custom cleats he makes for his friend and New York Giants standout Odell Beckham Jr.
“[Odell] hit me up while he was still at LSU, and I had no idea who he was,” Cole said. “We lost contact for a couple of years, and then he hit me up on Instagram shortly after ‘The Catch’ [in 2014], basically DM’d me, like, ‘Bro, I’m ready to get some cleats.’ I didn’t have any idea that he would be the pop culture guy that he’s become.”
Cole also highlighted Beckham as his most creative famous client.
“He’s a very creative guy: He knows what he wants, and he gives me freedom to basically do what I do,” Cole said. “We talk almost daily — bouncing ideas around, what’s next, what are we going to do here, the way colors want to flow, what are we feeling this week. We do two or three pairs of cleats a game for him, and we work pretty closely with Nike, too, sending me the shoes and working together on design elements.”
Aside from the work for the famous, Cole is busy stocking his website, kickasso.bigcartel.com, with custom looks anyone could buy. Stocked are Homer Simpson, Joker and fruit snack-inspired designs executed on Cole’s favorite shoes to work with including the Nike Roshe, Air Jordans, and the Adidas Ultra Boost and NMDs.
To get his designs pristine, Kickasso and his team engage in a lengthy process.
According to Cole, “Just like any paint job, 90 percent of it is in the prep. I run the custom shoe shop like a body shop: It goes through a prep station, a sanding station; it goes into the base coat, art and graphics. The process is basically stripping away the base coat of the shoe with acetone and things like that, and I have some proprietary stuff that I do to make the paint stick.
“The difference between my shoes and some others shoes is that my guys can wear these in a game with little to no issues,” he added. “I have a group here, and we bang out about 300 pairs a month out.”