Trevor Duffles '14

I graduated from UNCA with a BS in Management/Marketing in 2014.  I have been an artist my entire life and fused my passion and education to create a custom footwear business my sophomore year.  I had made custom sneakers starting back when I was just in middle school, but I never realized I could make any money in it, or that it could lead to a great career in design until college.  I started posting my work on a bunch of sneaker-related Facebook pages and created an Instagram which, to date, has around 48-50k followers that I built up through word of mouth, features of my work on major blogs and websites, participation in major competitions, and various other marketing and promotional strategies I took straight out of my textbooks and applied through a creative, "sneaker head" lense.

My business boomed while in school and I've made over 150 pairs of custom shoes for everyone from professional athletes, to the famous LA based DJ Flying Lotus, to your average sneaker head.  I won first place and the the 2014 "Custom Kings" title, and participated in 3 live Ace of Customs Competitions where each artist has just 5 hours to complete a pair of custom sneakers.  These competitions are judged by industry leaders in fashion, apparel, music, and entertainment and are always a very intense, fun, challenging experience in front of over 10,000 people! 

After college, I worked full-time on my business and realized, one year later, that the custom sneaker industry (and my place in it) was changing for the worse. There were too many newcomers undercutting prices that were far more than fair for the type of quality I was doing and I didn't quite adjust my business model to be the most "profitable."  My product was built on quality, detail, creativity, and not following the trends and "hype" of the industry.  So, I decided to switch my focus.

I am now studying the many, many, many aspects and roles in footwear design beyond just "customizing", or "alterations."  I am learning the design process from concept to final product. In Feb. and March of 2017, I spent time in Portland, OR studying at the Pensole Footwear Design Academy with 17 other designers.  We were doing work for the largest sole and midsole manufacturing company in the world, Vibram - who are based in Milan, Italy.  I am going to be returning to Portland in December or January, but this time to become a long-term resident, and master my craft among all the other designers and creatives who live and work there.  With my undergraduate education in business and marketing and my continued studies and experience in footwear, my goal is to be a rookie designer for a major footwear brand like Nike or Adidas by fall 2018!