Zac Vine was working with inner city youth in Toronto. and noticed how imported kicks were to his class after a fight nearly ensued when one kid damaged another kid’s shoes. Intrigued, he began researching shoe and sneaker culture. At first, he showed his classes how they could repair their favourite trainers and make them look brand new. One of the class members asked him to customise his trainers and they were so impressed with the end result they suggest Vine post his artwork on Instagram.
The images soon caught the attention of Aroldis Chapman (then Cincinnati Reds), who arranged a meet. Chapman’s interest sparked an invitation from Nike and they invited Vine to their headquarters in Beaverton, Ore., where he was given an inside look at their design process and some of the materials they work with. He was also offered work with their sponsored athletes.
For professional reasons, Zac works under the tag Zeevy Customs and the shoe artists strips each sneaker removing any of the manufacturer’s finish, before re-dying and refashioning the sneakers by hand. He then customises the shoe to the client’s request using paintbrushes. He likes to avoid airbrushes or stencils preferring to work freestyle.
The artist painstakingly recreates images of family members or pets submitted by clients, and popular scenes such as José Bautista ’s infamous bat-flip for a pair of Jays-themed sneakers. He regularly accepts celebrity commission from people like, The Weeknd , Drake and Logic . According to the artist, it takes about 40 hours to complete one pair, or a week's work. He charges about $30 an hour to customize a shoe and sells his one-off sneakers from prices ranging from $1,000 to $3,000.
Despite his resounding success the Canadian shoe artist missed helping kids, so he started teaching again as a substitute at Journey Middle School. After going full time, he combined the two interests and created the Fresh SOLES program, where students are able to paint their own sneakers.