Editor In Chief Note: I’m proud to announce the newest member of the PaintOrThread.com staff, Trevor Duffles of District Customs. I met Trevor just over a year ago at the 1st Custom Kings event which just happened to be in his home town of Washington, D.C. It was clear he had a passion for customizing as well as an above average skill that was evident in his pair that won the event, the “Kyushu” Air Jordan 1 pictured below. Over the past 5 years I’ve had a some great help curating the site’s content. As I look to the future and what I want PaintOrThread to represent in the customizing community and sneaker world I’m happy to have Trevor be apart of that vision. Read on as Trevor shares his story of how District Customs came to be and his own goals in this art. Thanks for checking our site. – Brandon Laskowski
If one were to have asked me when I was 16 years old what I would be doing with my life after I graduated from college, it’s likely I would have told them I was going to be a professional musician. At that time, I had been playing the drums for 11 years and had my heart set on music. However, I had also been drawing and painting since I was about two and I started using sneakers as my canvas when I was in middle school.
I really got into sneakers in the 6th grade and it all began in 2005 when I bought a set of Adicolor paint pens at an old sneaker boutique in Frederick, Maryland. After seeing pictures of SBTG‘s and C2‘s work on the internet, and a hand full of people on MySpace that had painted Air Force 1s and Dunks, I knew I had to try it out. I could never afford to buy a cool pair of sneakers for myself, so I would always look for shoes on sale or use old beaters of my own to practice on. Even though I had been drawing and painting since I was a toddler, custom painting sneakers is a whole different ball game. I had no idea what I was doing and it was a continuous learning process with every new pair; still even today.
Fast forward about 5 years and all I had done was paint some shoes for a few friends – as well as several for myself – because my focus was on drumming and gearing up to study music in college… Howbeit, after my freshmen year at UNC Asheville, I realized I was not prepared to be a music major. I switched my major to marketing and in my junior year, I invested some money into a nice Iwata airbrush, a bunch of paints, and started District Customs. Overall, I’ve had about eight years of experience customizing shoes, yet I have only been at it professionally for three.
As I have learned, evolved, and thankfully grown, the entire custom sneaker industry has done so too. In fact, some others have evolved and grown at a much faster pace than myself. But in reality, that is what this trade needs in order to survive. What is good for one customizer is good for us all. We are already beginning to see the interest and hype around custom sneakers slowly fade as a result of virtually every sneaker blog flooding the internet on a daily basis with various customs of widely ranging quality standards for the past year and a half. Therefore, I believe it is the responsibility of the artists to honor high standards for quality work and to continue evolving, to continue pushing creative boundaries, and to find new ways to keep what we do relevant and exciting. If you have seen the T-shirt collaboration between Mache and Staple, then you know they would agree with my previous statement as well.
Because of the immense competition in the industry today, I search for inspiration in nature, architecture, foreign cultures and their art, film, music, and random things I see or hear that switch on a light bulb in my head. I’m always trying to out-do myself creatively with each and every new pair that I do. This is easier said than done.
Recently in the Ace of Customs x British Knights competition, my entry for the first round featured a design incorporating bright neon orange and lime hues, and peacock feathers because of their symbolic meaning. The story behind the design was synonymous with the mission of the British Knights brand: Peacock feathers symbolize renewal and immortality. Unfortunately, this kind of creativity and story telling isn’t always appreciated by the mass market of young sneakerheads, but rather the rarer, more sophisticated sneaker aficionado. Nevertheless, it is one of my favorite ways to create – even if it doesn’t get more than 1,000 likes on Instagram!
Finally having graduated from college in May of this year, I am focusing my efforts on building District Customs and hope to become a brighter spotlight in the custom sneaker industry. I’m aiming to branch out of simply customizing sneakers to offering other customized apparel and accessories on my website; all while doing some cool freelance work and collaborating with major brands. As I am now proudly writing for Paint or Thread, I hope to become even more educated about those participating in the custom sneaker world and use this knowledge to improve the industry as a whole, as well as for myself.