FAQ - Custom Shoes by Louie Gong (Nooksack)

Louie, do you still customize shoes?

Unfortunately, my work on shoes has been permanently placed on the back-burner while I cultivate art related business opportunities for both myself and other cultural artists through Eighth Generation. I'm leaving the following information published – even though it is outdated – because it has been such an important part of the Eighth Generation story.

Where can I buy these shoes?

The only authorized place to purchase my hand painted/drawn shoes is here at Eighth Generation’s website.

When will you open the next round of orders for custom shoes?

I have less and less time to create custom shoes as other ventures at the intersection of art and business take off.  Although I'm honored that the demand for custom shoes is great, I ask for your patience and understanding as I develop projects that – unlike drawing on shoes – will lead to long term sustainability for my family.  I'm also helping other grassroots artists make the same moves though the Inspired Natives Project.

What do your shoes cost?

My hand painted/drawn custom shoes usually sell for $175.00 - $300.00 depending on the cost of the base shoe and the popularity of the design. This represents a self-imposed cap on pricing.

What kinds of shoes can you customize?

Although canvas shoes like Vans and Converse make great base shoes for customizing, I can customize any kind of shoe – from leather Nike Air Jordans to suede boots – to heels and pumps.

What is an "Exclusive Custom?"

We work together to design a unique shoe that represents you, your heritage, a story from your life – anything you can imagine. You may email me with your proposal, but please be advised that orders for Exclusive Customs are temporarily closed due to overwhelming demand. However, I’m inclined to make time for meaningful projects or projects that might increase exposure for Eighth Generation.

What materials do you like to use?

My custom shoes are meant to be worn, so I use materials that will be durable even with regular exposure to the elements. For canvas shoes, this means using fabric dye pens rather than acrylic or Sharpie. Although there are many brands of fabric dye pens that will work well, I prefer the regular and opaque fabric dye pens and markers from Marvy-Uchida.

In the award winning film UNRESERVED: The work of Louie Gong it is stated that I used Sharpie on my first pair of shoes. This is often taken out of context or generalized to mean that I always use Sharpie. In actuality, it only took me a few pairs to learn that fabric dye was the right medium for custom shoes.

When working on leather shoes, I like to use Angelus leather paint. You can find many informative online tutorials for working on leather shoes.

How will my custom shoes hold up?

I’ve spent a lot of time refining the methods and materials I use to put art on shoes. The artwork on your shoe should hold up nearly as well as a factory printed design.

Are there any designs you won’t do?

I won’t copy someone else’s design because it’s both bad form and no fun. Additionally, I enjoy designing with the contours, colors and lines of each shoe, so designs created as prints won’t look as good when they’re on the shoe. If you like a particular design, I’m happy to incorporate elements of the design but I won’t try to duplicate it. Copyrighted material and trademarks are also off-limits unless you are the owner or have written permission to use the material.

How will I know exactly what my shoe will look like?

You won’t. Each shoe is unique. The organic nature of designing a custom shoe is what makes the process fun and challenging. It’s also what gives each shoe its unique character.

Variations in design often depend on your shoe size and the way the design color stands out against the color of the base shoe. As I go, I also make adjustments to cover up imperfections in the base shoe and cover up my own occasional slip-up. This is typically how innovation happens.

There are also tangible factors that influence the look of your shoe. First, base-shoes of different colors tend to have slightly different textures.  This variation in texture is an important factor in determining the quality of the lines I can achieve.  It’s for this reason that I like to inspect each shoe before purchasing it. Second, although all design colors look very good, darker colors tend to look more consistent throughout the design.

Are you affiliated with Vans?

Vans has supported my work in many ways. In preparation for the 2010 Winter Olympics, they helped out my fledgling operation by providing me with display fixtures and promotional materials.  Later that year, they licensed an image of my art for display in Vans retail stores across the USA.  I’m especially appreciative of their support of my "Art and Identity: Custom Shoe Workshops" with low-income youth. 

Are you affiliated with Converse?

Converse’s regional reps have been supportive of my work, and I look forward to getting more connected with Converse in the future.

What is your return policy for shoes?

All sales on custom shoes are final.