Artist Simon Fellows from England is customising cycling shoes for professional and amateur cyclists alike, offering the opportunity to turn your cycling shoes into a blank canvas.
Despite the cycling giants of Specialized, Shimano and, well Giant, to name but a few, and their domination of the cycling industry, more and more niche and independent cycling brands have emerged in recent years. And the popularity of this boutique apparel, tailored frame builds and custom paintwork continues to grow.
Creating about 2–3 pairs of cycling shoes in a week, Fellows’ preference is Giro Empire SLX, Rapha GT, Specialized S-Works 6/Sub 6 and Fizik R1B. “They offer a large single-skinned area and the synthetic and natural leather is a perfect canvas for me to produce a vast array of designs”.
Fellows has produced shoes for current and retired professional cyclists, including British national champion Adam Blythe, Rick Zabel, Ian Bibby and Bradley Wiggins. “My favourite designs I have produced are a multicoloured geometric design on a pair of Giro Empire SLX, which got a lot of love on social media. I have also recently completed a pair of Fizik R1Bs that were completely transformed into an indigenous/aboriginal design for an Australian customer.”
Fellows prepares each shoe before proceeding with the artwork, allowing the paint to adhere to the surface. Then, dependent on the shoe's material, a variety of acrylic paints are used to decorate the entire shoe excluding any solid plastic parts.
Finally, multiple layers of protective finisher and waterproofing are applied to provide the shoes with greater longevity. The shoes’ design will retain with normal use, even in wet weather, but just like the shoe itself any crashes causing tears or scratches can damage the artwork.
Artful Kicks has around 27,000 followers on social media and has been key to the brand’s success. The audience growth in two years is impressive and has worked due to a variety of marketing and social media campaigns and self-promotion. Fellows plans on taking this further next year, attending a variety of expos to increase the brands presence further.
Fellows was born in Leeds but grew up in Dorset, and despite always having an interest in art, it was never a major feature in his education. Sport on the other hand was. “I graduated from the University of Chichester in 2013 with a degree in Sports and Exercise Science and relocated to Bedfordshire. I was stuck in a dead-end retail job with no real career progression, but I had always said to myself that I would relish the opportunity to start up and own my own business,”says Fellows.
A few months down the line after travelling in New Zealand with university friends, Fellows made his dream a reality. As down time from career searching, Fellows began painting onto various items of footwear as a hobby.
Initially starting with sneakers/trainers, social media gave the designs exposure and led to a first pair of hand-painted custom sneakers being sold to a customer.
The trend continued and exposure grew, leading to British pro Ian Bibby ordering the first pair of custom cycling shoes. The Sidi Carbon Wires were decorated with a camouflage design, leading to a great number of individuals contacting Fellows about his product. Fellows says: “I soon realised this was a fantastic niche to get involved in, and having an interest in cycling myself, meant that I was bringing two hobbies of mine together.”
In the last twelve months, Fellows’ business has developed to the point where 80 percent of the shoes produced have been cycling shoes and admits this will be the focus of business going forward. And with 20 pairs of shoes currently in the queue, it looks to be continued success.
More frequently at BikeRadar we see customised frames, components and accessories at trade shows and even just out riding. So, looking to the future we asked Fellows where he sees the business heading: “I would relish the opportunity to be able to customise a variety of accessories such as helmets and frames, but it’s all about making the final piece durable. It will also be about managing my workload and combining this with giving the business greater exposure at events across the country. My dream would be to produce, or be involved in the design of a specific line of cycling shoes for a major company!”