The teen who paints shoes for celebs

Updated: Oct 13, 2019, 10:06 IST | Anju Maskeri | Mumbai

A teenager from Andheri harbours a passion for customising kicks for which he is earning a loyal following among Bollywood's sneakerheads

Pic/Ashish Raje
Pic/Ashish Raje

There have been two constants in 19-year-old Chaitanya Dixit's lifeā€”art and sneakers. Both loves run deep. The two happened to meet when he was browsing YouTube videos and found one on the trend of sneaker customisation. "It blew my mind," he remembers. "I binged on the designs and decided to put my skills to test."

One year and 300 pairs later, sneakers are his canvas. Operating out of his Lokhandwala apartment, Dixit hand-paints at least one pair every day. Having given the class XII exams, he has enough time on hand to take it on like a full-time job. "I started drawing on shoes for myself, and then for friends. Soon, I realised I could make money from it." He prefers to go by the name Che (@chaitanya_dixit) and is known as much for his cartoon illustrations as his abstract works. "My style is punk and guerrila," he clarifies. "But, now that I have decided to make a business of it, I also make what others like." The design requests are usually rooted in personal experiences of customers, just like tattoos. "People want pets, and motifs that say something about their personality or their journey." He charges anywhere between Rs 3,000 to Rs 12,000 for the paint job.

The Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 in rani pink for Harshavardhan Kapoor
The Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 in rani pink for Harshavardhan Kapoor

Dixit found fame last November when he customised a pair of Air Jordans for Ranbir Kapoor. His brother Harsh Dixit is personal chef to the actor. The colour code of this pair was inspired by Kapoor's Mumbai City FC jersey. Having friends at the right places has helped bag celebrity clients. So far, he has designed kicks for Alia Bhatt, Ranveer Singh, Rannvijay Singh and entrepreneur and Sonam Kapoor's husband Anand Ahuja. Recently, when designer Masaba Gupta joined hands with Puma to design a sneaker, the brand sent Dixit a template of designs he could replicate on 25 shoes.

The time spent on customisation depends on the complexity of the design. He could need anywhere between two days to three weeks to complete a pair, and receives 25 orders a month. "Initially, painting on kicks was challenging because of the material involved; every shoe has a different contour, mesh pattern and texture. Sometimes, even drawing a straight line is a struggle," he says. He finds it easier to sketch on Converse than those made of fabric. "When you paint on cloth, the fabric sucks the paint. Too much acrylic can stiffen the cloth, making it difficult to get the detailing right. It's a fine balance." After months of practice, he managed to develop a steady hand. In case of an error, he'd make amends to the design and improvise. "I do the same when I'm drawing on paper. I rarely use an eraser." For leather sneakers, he gets a box of angelus paints shipped from London. He says, "Three years ago, I was possibly the only one doing this in India. Luckily, making it a business hasn't sucked the joy out of it."

Harshvardhan Kapoor

For Harshvardhan Kapoor
Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 in rani pink

Wiz Khalifa

For Wiz Khalifa
Vans sk8 hi TGOD

Ranbir Kapoor

For Ranbir Kapoor
The Air Jordan

Ranveer Singh

For Ranveer Singh
Adidas Gazelle

Illustrations/Uday Mohite

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