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The Future of Shopping

If you’re into sneakers or fashion or “pop culture,” you’ve probably caught wind of the massive marketing activation being held at Long Beach Convention Center this weekend. That would be ComplexCon, a two day event aimed at showcasing the hottest sneakers, clothing, and food that represent pop culture in 2016.

(Source: @complexcon)

On paper, ComplexCon is what Agenda Show (and Capsule and Magic for that matter) have turned essentially turned into. With the rise of eCommerce, the concept of a trade show has become less and less relevant. Buyers can do this work over the Internet. Instead, conventions have loosely turned into marketing activations, like Pharrell pushing G-Star Raw here.

(Source: @pharrell)

A marketing activation is essentially a form of brand engagement with potential customers to showcase what exactly your company does, and why the product is worth buying. You’ll find these in forms of the booths at said shows. The booth is part customer engagement, part show of force; a booth basically says, “how dope/powerful/cutting edge is our company? Have a look.” Take for instance Nike’s Air Force 1 booth at ComplexCon. This massive booth showcases the 20+ year history for one of Nike’s longstanding favorites, which leads to the exclusive Special Field Air Force One that’s being sold just at ComplexCon.

(Source: Nike)

Obviously this space is insane, Nike is a Fortune 500 company (in fact, they’re technically a Fortune 100 at #91). So being one of the top 100 companies in the world allows you certain liberties with your activation. For instance, they’re showcasing a single product because they’re operating under the assumption that world knows about all the other sneakers they sell; they’re probably right too.

(Source: @complexcon)

Part of the experience of ComplexCon is the “cash-and-carry” feature that drives the whole customers there. While a convention like Agenda is more focused on buyers picking out stock for their stores, cash-and-carry means the average consumer can go their and literally buy product. In other words, the convention center has been turned into a massive pop up shop with performances, food, and panels.

(Source: @travisscott)

Panels are the norm at most conferences. Typically, a group of experts talk about what’s new and exciting in their field. For ComplexCon, that ranged from Action Bronson talking about weed to DJ Clark Kent talking about Jordans. It’s interesting to see conversation that might take place on the message boards or in the “comment sections” move into a real life setting. How these panels impact the way streetwear heads spend their money hasn’t yet been determined, but the entire convention is a unique spin on an old concept.

(Source: @complexcon)

This is the shopping experience in 2016 and it’s pretty fascinating.

Customs Rule on Halloween

Hands down, Halloween is one of the best holidays. You can dress up and go out, or if you have kids, go trick or treating. For the sneaker custom community, that means cooking up some Halloween-themed projects. Every year, the #angelusdirect page showcases some of the most creative customs. Here are some of our favorite Halloween sneakers from this year.

These Evil Dead Foamposites were done by @revivecustoms. The 1981 horror film is a cult classic, bringing the cabin-in-the-woods genre of horror films to a gruesome new level. These Foams are based on the Book of the Dead, called the Naturom Demonto in the film.

(Source: @revivecustoms)

Surviving the mayhem was the character Ash Williams played by Bruce Campbell, who quickly became one of horror’s greatest characters.


Next, we have these Freddy Krueger Air Jordan III’s by @chillsbarkley.

(Source: @chillsbarkley

Back in the fall of 1984, Wes Craven’s The Nightmare on Elm Street unleashed one of the most terrifying horror villains on audiences. Freddy was the stuff of nightmares, literally offing a squad of helpless teenagers in their dreams.


Another pair that caught our eye was these Walking Dead Air Jordan V’s by @sneakerfairy.

(Source: @sneakerfairy)

 For the past seven seasons, fans have watched their Rick and his gang of survivors battle mindless hordes, marauding militias, insane villains, and (sometimes) family drama! Ironically, the first episode aired on Halloween night back in 2010.


 This last pair, Air Max 95’s were done by @abstracked_customz, were one of the most horrifying of the bunch.


(Source: @abstracked_customz

 While not necessarily themed after a specific movie, they like they might be on the feet of Leatherface, the terrorizer from the 1974 film The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.



 Until next year, keep up those customs and be sure to tag #angelusdirect for a feature. And if you haven’t checked it out yet, or sale ends tonight at 11:59 PM EST. Use the code SPOOKY20 and stock up on your favorite items.

Angelus Direct Presents: Sydney Kay

What is the measure of success for an artist? Some might say sales, some say name recognition, others say a little bit of both. In 2016 though, eCommerce and influential websites have changed what success in the art world looks like, but when you're featured on certain sites, you're there. Love it or hate it, the website Hypebeast has the pulse of fashion and culture. So when on artist is featured on there, sandwiched between a Kanye feature and a new season drop, it's a big deal—you're doing something right.
For Sydney Kay, one of our sponsored artists, this was the case. Sydney was kind enough to take set aside some time from hustling, creating, customizing, and going to school full time to talk to with us. 
The custom sneaker world knows you as Sydney Kay. Can you give us a little about your background and how you got into art?
From a young age I’ve always been creatively inclined, but it wasn’t until high school that I took a serious interest in pursuing a career in art and design. Actually, at one point I was certain on going to college for soccer, until I experienced a career-ending injury that pushed me towards what I’m doing today. I gave up my athletic career at the age of 17 and instead found a passion for art. Now, I’m 20 years old currently working towards a degree in design at an art school in Cincinnati. 
For a time, the oil spill effect has been a huge hit. How did you come up with the idea? What does the creative process look like?
The idea came to me while working late in my studio one night. Creatively I was getting burnt out from painting 30+ pairs of Wavy roshes when I decided to step back and figure out my next move. I knew I wanted to continue making more unconventional work, which is what led to the creation of the “Oil Spill” concept. I had a brand new pair of triple black AF1’s sitting on a shelf, so I broke those out and started prepping. Unlike every other pair I didn’t have a predetermined design, I just picked up a pair of shoes and started painting, making design decisions as I went. Somewhere throughout the process, the paint started to have this weird iridescent effect even though I was only using flat colors. It reminded me of the way oil reacts with concrete, which inspired the entire concept, including the name, packaging, and product shots. It was all just a way for me to push through my creative burnout, I never anticipated it to be as popular as it was.
Speaking of aesthetic, your trademark work is often subtle and monochromatic, but refined. Personally, I think your work looks like it would be perfectly at home in Dover Street Market as a display. What are some of your main creative inspirations? 
My aesthetic is actually a result of my newfound interests in contemporary art and fashion. When I first got into sneaker customizing I was just mimicking the big guys. Being a young artist fresh out of high school, I hadn’t defined my own artistic vision, so everything I was making was directly influenced by other sponsored sneaker artists. I did a lot of floral themes, a lot of sports references, but after a while I started realizing that wasn’t me. I knew I was doing something wrong when I realized that I wouldn’t wear any of my own work. The Wavy Roshes were the first step towards my own unique style. I still feel like I have a long way to go, but now my creative inspirations lie outside of the sneaker world. 
Sneaker customizing is as popular as ever, but you've separate yourself by thinking outside of the box. For instance, you've been doing these really cool custom insoles, how did you get into that? What's next?
I have many different interests outside of painting sneakers. Creating these highly detailed, graphically-driven images on insoles is a way for me to expand the media I’m working with so I can utilize my skills in design. I’ve found that it’s a really effective way to depict a concept without jeopardizing the simplicity of the shoe itself. I prefer there to be a balance between art and wearability. When I say wearability I’m not talking about the physical durability, but the functionality of the design itself. I would never wear a pair of sneakers with a hand painted, photo realistic portrait on the side—to me thats not wearable. But there are other ways to get that concept across: through insoles, packaging, product shots, etc. I like working with more than just the outside of a sneaker, which is why I’ve taken such an interest in custom insoles. I’d like to continue pushing that and ideally expand beyond just footwear.
Your work made it to Hypebeast, which can either be an awful or amazing site. How was the response to that?
The response was incredible, regardless of how you look at it. I got an overwhelming amount of both positive and negative engagement. Almost every comment on Hypebeast and Highsnobiety was harshly critical, but I sold out almost instantly after that feature. It inspired an insole collab with Footcanvas shortly after the release, which was a lighthearted acknowledgement of all the hate anonymously targeted towards me. I decided to have 10 of them made to send with every “By Any Means Necessary” order. 
How did you turn customizing into a business? Are there ups and downs? Ebbs and flows?
There are most definitely high’s and low’s to turning customizing into a business and it’s different for every artist trying to do so. I made the decision a while ago to stop accepting client orders—which is a strange decision especially in the business of custom sneakers. It’s completely opposite of the way every other customizer is running their business, but it’s what works for me. Creatively, I can’t function just doing client requests, so instead I make limited releases of my own designs. It’s difficult to keep up when taking on 10+ orders at one time, but at the same time I get 100% artistic freedom and the willingness to work at my own pace without any restrictions. 
Lastly, any advice for the young artists/customizers/hustlers trying to monetize their creativity?
I’m a 20 year old struggling college student going to school full-time while holding a job and trying to run a business. If I can do it, anyone can. 
(Source: All images courtesy of @syndeykaycustoms)
Be sure to follow Sydney at @syndeykaycustoms for updates and check out the website: for exclusive custom work.

Angelus Direct Presents: Talking Customs with Dank

Jake Danklefs is a true OG in the sneaker custom game. Under the name Dank & Co, this Texas-based artist is one of the most sought after sneaker customizers around, producing extremely detailed custom work that often make the original sneaker look boring. Everything about his art, from the painting sneakers, sole-swapping, to the detailing the box itself, is a reflection of his creativity and hard work ethic. Luckily, Jake was kind enough to take time from his daily grind to answer some questions about his background, his preferred tools of the trade, and his influences!
The custom sneaker world knows you as Jake Danklefs. Can you give us a little about your background and how you got into art?

My name is Jake Danklefs, better known as Dank. The Dank name came from the first 4 letters of my last name. I have been working  the art realm since I was a little kid, all types of art from sculpture to painting to architecture and design and all the way into welding and automotive work. I get that from my Mom. She is very creative. But I got the sneaker love from my brother. He always had the freshest stuff in the late 80s and 90s and I was just a ball of Play Dough picking up everything he was putting down. You can kinda guess where that went from there.

What are some of your main creative inspirations? 

My biggest influences as a kid were my mom and my brother. As I started to research and get into other things, I would soon realize that big influences in my life became Frank Lloyd Wright, Charles and Ray Eames, Chip Foose, Jesse James, Nigo and James Jebbia.

Your custom work is super detailed and vibrant. What's your go-to for tools—airbrush, straight up paint, combination of both?

My main tools are a combo of airbrush and hand painting. I do ALOT of both. Airbrush is something rather new for me. Only been doing that for a few years now, but its mainly for speeding up the process and adding fades. I have not mastered the detail side of the airbrush.

Does working with different types of sneakers challenge you to use different types of creativity? 

Of course, and I hate making things that are not wearable and sometimes you need to go to extreme measure to make sure something has the look that you want and also has the durability. If I could give any advice to a a beginner is always make sure you are doing everything you can to make your art wearable and durable.

How does doing work for clientele, affect the overall creative process? 

I try not to let it affect what I want to do at all. Most people come to me with an idea and an understanding that I will take their idea and do things they never thought possible with that idea. Creative freedom is very important and let people know that I am not the artist for them if I start to see that being compromised.

Your custom work is definitely a go-to for inspiration. How did you turn customizing into a business? 

That I can not answer. I had a full time job 4 years ago and was doing this on the side during that time and a quit because my dad got sick. So I started working more doing this and business just kept coming. If I would have known I would have made this into a full time job I would have done a lot of things differently. I would have a different name, different website, IG name, etc, and I would have legally legitimized my business alot sooner too.

Lastly, any advice for the young customizers out there getting started?

Again, do what you can and think outside the box to make sure your product is durable. All the products are out there to help but you should also know when to stop and not alter certain things. Invest in a good camera, take good pics and post them. Keep your audience talking about you. Dont let them forget about you. Be open and develop relationships with everyone you meet. You never know who they know and so on. Networking is important. Lastly, have fun and dont get caught up in things you dont want to do.

All images courtesy of @jwdanklefs

Angelus Direct Presents: A Q&A with True Blue Customs

This week we touch base with Billy Hobbs, better known to the custom sneaker world as Lexington, Kentucky-based True Blue Customs. Billy's work is always eye catching and crisp, and finds it was on to the feet of some big name clientele. He was kind enough to do a quick Q&A with us, so if you need some inspiration or looking for solid advice from one of the greats, check it out.

Can you give us a little about your background and how you got into art?

"Well, growing up I was always into art. Drawing mostly, I loved doing portrait work. I'd draw for hours as a kid, shoes, cars, people, whatever. I Didn't get into much paint work till after I was a little older, in the real world working in a custom autobody shop. I began to play with an airbrush a little, doing minor artwork on whatever I could get my hands on."

What are some of your main creative inspirations?

"I really love doing theme shoes, something that lets me get a little creative.  Basic color changes are okay, but when a client gives you a nice theme and allows you to really get crazy, it's a lot of fun. I draw inspiration from everywhere, other artists, TV commercials, etc. You'd be surprised where you can find great ideas and inspiration."

Your custom sneakers are always incredibly detailed and vibrant. What's your go-to for tools—airbrush, straight up paint, combination of both?

"I do a combination of hand painting and airbrush work. I really dig breaking out the fine brushes for detail work."

While sneaker customizing is as popular as ever, customizing cleats is picking traction as well, how did you get into cleats?

"A couple years ago I was contacted by Jerome Williams, from the Phillies at the time.  He wanted several pairs of cleats for the season, everything from a tribute to his mother, to a desert camo pair. From there, I gradually built up a clientele of about 30 major/minor leaguers. Mainly by word of mouth, and of course shoutouts by some specialty pages on IG geared towards baseball players."

What's it like switching between customizing sneakers, cleats, skateboards, there was even a helmet in there. Does painting on different canvases challenge you to use different types of creativity?

"It's a little challenging, every canvas is its own animal. From prep work, to the finisher, they are all a little different, but it's nice to do different things every once in awhile."

For those with a keen eye, they might see some of your clients out on the diamond. How does doing work for clientele, affect the overall creative process?

"Every client is different, some guys know exactly what they want,color placement, logos, design work, the whole deal. Others need a little guidance in determining what will be practical, and the look they are going for. Then you have the guys, that say 'I trust you, just do your thing.' I try to accommodate any client request as we begin the process."

Your custom work is definitely a go-to for inspiration. How did you turn customizing into a business?

"I had done it off and on since the early 2000's, but got serious as a hobby about 3 years ago, I started doing restorations and a few smaller customs for some local guys. I ended up doing a pair for Willie Cauley Stein of the Kings, then the Kentucky Wildcats. It was a pair of gold XI's, with a blue sole, blue accents. He wore them in the NCAA tourney 2 years ago, and the shoes ended up all over the place, IG pages, sneaker blogs, Twitter.

It was crazy for a few days after that. That pair kinda got the ball rolling and got my name out there. About a year ago, I sat down and looked at where I was headed with this hobby and took a leap of faith, and the rest is history.  It's not everyday you can do what you love for a living."

Lastly, any advice for the young customizers out there getting started?

"Practice, practice, practice. There are a lot of cats out there in the game just looking to cash out and take people's money. Don't be that guy, put your heart and soul into each pair you do, and push yourself to get better. If you genuinely love the art, it'll make you a better artist."

There it is! True Blue Customs is the real deal when it comes to a fully-functioning custom business. Be sure to check out Billy's page for more.

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