Art is collaboration between an artist and his subject. In a city like Eugene, weighed down with a heavy brand presence, one student is leveraging that commercial environment to show off his original artistry.
Manny Medina is a senior at University of Oregon, majoring in Applied Economics and Business Marketing, with a minor in Art. He started working for Nike four years ago and quickly discovered a passion for not only the brand, but shoes in general. After a few years of collecting rare shoes and working toward a career with the company, he developed an idea to turn his passion into art.
“I was tired of seeing the same thing on everyone’s feet, so I decided I wanted to create unique shoes,” said Medina. “Nike has countless models and material designs for people to choose from. I simply put paint to shoes, based on an idea or concept all my own, to make something one of a kind.”
Not many people would pursue a career out of a hobby, but Medina has chosen to focus his love for designing and painting custom kicks into a potential future — in either color design or conceptual design for a large shoe market or brand. Medina has also constructed a brand name in the custom shoe world: “It’s the Manster.” Part of building that brand comes with using online platforms through various social media accounts, sharing his newest footwear creations. Medina knows using social media can mean dealing with negativity.
“There are definitely some tough critics out there in not only the art world, but also in the shoe world,” He said. “One of the first shoes I posted, a commenter told me, ‘The shoes looked terrible, but the painting technique looked like you know what you’re doing.’ All I can do is take each comment – good or bad — at face value, and continue developing my own methods and practices, and do what works for me.”
With the negative reviews also come the positive. A constant flow of encouraging, and new ideas from consumers on potential shoes they would like Medina to pursue. This business is a prime example of the fast growing retail industry of one-of-a-kind and customized designs. It is opening up the shoe world to countless ideas and concepts. This fast-growing trend allows consumers to request specific designs, brands, and logos on any shoe available.
“When I begin a new shoe concept or idea, I begin by developing a color scheme and associate that with an icon or idea, and then pick the shoe silhouette based on what will fit my design best,” said Medina. “My favorite shoes I’ve done were Ghostbusters inspired that I painted on a pair of Jordan 5’s. I used a glow in the dark paint on the bottom strip of the shoe.”
The unique nature of custom shoes and the raw talent Medina has, gives him the ability to create new ideas and invent concepts completely unique in footwear. It has only been one year since he released his first custom pair. Since then, Medina has developed his own signature design so that each shoe is unique, and a fresh idea all his own, which will surely have an impact on his success.