If you want to see how fast someone’s life can change, look no further than L.A. based sneaker artist Salvador Amezcua, also known as as Kickstradomis. Kickstradomis’s sneaker customizations have taken over today's NBA, but things weren’t always like this.
Kickstradomis suffered injuries in a terrible car accident in 2016 and worked at a low-paying gig at a warehouse. It wasn’t until he linked up with Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns on a sneaker project this past Halloween that his life changed forever.
“It allowed me to quit my job and pursue this career," Kickstradomis said. “The Halloween pair that I did for KAT went viral first and put me on the map.”
The sneakers he is referencing were a pair of Nike Hyperdunks that featured Friday the 13th villain Jason Voorhees carrying a bloodied Nike swoosh that served as a knife. The sneakers exploded on the Internet and surfaced on numerous sneaker blogs.
Sneaker customization have found a new life in the NBA, where it is commonplace to see shoes highlighted on NBA twitter every night. Kickstradomis specializes in cartoonish designs and current trends. In the past few weeks, his sneakers customizations for NBA players have featured art inspired by Dragon Ball Z, The Simpsons, and Rick and Morty.
For those trying to get a customized sneaker from Kickstradomis now, good luck. Custom orders from Kickstradomis can now take months. His clientele now includes KAT, James Harden, Iman Shumpert, Lauri Markannen, Donovan Mitchell, international draft prospect Luka Doncic and celebs in the entertainment industry.
The Crossover caught up with Kickstradomis to talk about his origins, working with KAT and how he is dealing with his newfound fame.
Jarrel Harris: You have blown up in the past few months. What are your origins?
Kickstradomis: I’m 31 and I live in the Los Angeles area. I’ve been drawing since I was a kid and I’ve been doing shoes roughly about seven years now. I’m partially color blind, so that is pretty crazy. I kind of disappeared from planet Earth for a year and a half after a car accident in 2016, so I was ready to put the brush down and stop doing it but people around me, such as Karl-Anthony Towns and my girlfriend, pushed me to get back into it.
JH: Karl-Anthony Towns inspired you to pick up the brush again. Where did that relationship originate?
Kicks: He was following me on Instagram for a long time and I didn't even know. When I got wind of it, I reached out and we ended up linking at his place and we chopped it up for a couple hours and we thought it was the perfect fit. He wanted to help me and I wanted to do what I could to kind of be able to make sure his shoe stands out.
Because for a guy that wears a size 20, it is very hard to get anything custom or anything special from Nike, so that is where I come into play. I have been working with KAT since the preseason and now it's just pretty much exploded with everybody. KAT was my first client and one of these people who put the fire back in me and told me to get back to it.
JH: What has your experience working with KAT been like?
Kicks: Man, it is amazing. It is very surreal. Still surreal at some times because I see it as a business and these guys are like friends and stuff, but in real life you’re like, 'Wow, you did shoes for James Harden?' I'm letting it all soak in and now I'm just enjoying the ride.
JH: How would you describe your art style?
Kicks: Everything is self-taught man. In the first couple of years I was doing a lot of mess-ups, so I was learning a lot of things on the fly. So it would just come to me. I went through a lot of adversity and all these mess ups, so that is a message that I try to send to the kids. You’re not automatically going to be able to do it; it's kind of a grind. It's a science.
JH: How does it feel to have NBA teams and celebs shouting you out on social media?
Kicks: It’s just an honor, man. I'm very humble. That's one of the things that allows you to keep growing and being real with everybody and kind of pretty much came together because of it.
JH. Walk me through your process from ideation to creation when customizing—how long does it usually take?
Kicks: Usually I will get the shoe and they give me a theme and say do whatever you want to do with it because they trust my creativity. I don't start envisioning the work until it's on my table waiting. That's when I start putting it all together in my head.
JH:All-Star usually brings a ton of sneaker opportunities. Who are some people that you worked with over the break?
Kicks: I worked with Lauri Markkanen on his rising stars pair. I did a very special pair for KAT for the game. I also had the opportunity to work with a few celebrity All-Stars like B.Dot (NBA impersonator), Miles Brown (Blackish), I worked with Ronnie 2K from NBA 2K. There is so much. I had shoes all over Venice Beach for the All-Star Weekend event. I also had pairs on display for Baron Davis’s event as well.
JH: What are your thoughts on how the NBA has accepted sneaker culture? Do you believe they have accepted your work?
Kicks: Man it's crazy! It just happened so suddenly that I started working with so many players. I'm kind of in touch with a bunch of organizations like the Magic, the Jazz, and the Mavericks to do projects with them. It was just exploding so fast, at first the NBA was saying no trademarks or copy marks or nothing but now they are kind of accepting the art that I am doing with all of these players.
JH: What is your day-to-day process now with so many requests now?
Kicks: I have a team. My girl helps me out, my brother-in-law is my assistant so I have a team that is helping me. I probably pumped out about 50-55 shoes in the last few weeks and for All-Star Weekend.
JH: Who has had the craziest idea for a design?
Kicks: It would have to be my boy Montrezl Harrell. He is definitely one that comes up with some crazy stuff.
JH: Do you have a dream collab?
Kicks: My favorite player is Kevin Durant, so that would be awesome. My favorite models are the KD 6 and 7’s. I worked on some of his new ones as well; I can work on any type of shoes. I just love the challenge. If the shoe is a little bit more challenging to work on, I love to do that.
JH: Earlier this season you had the opportunity to work with James Harden on the “Free Meek Mill” sneakers. How did that come about?
Kicks: I got connected through one of his best friends and he wanted something so he could make a statement, because he supports his buddy and he feels like it wasn't justified. So I put a statement on the sneakers and it's not my first time I put a statement on sneakers. Karl-Anthony Towns wore a pair at his alumni game and it had ‘Love Trumps Hate’ and it was an anti-racism protest. It’s just a cool way that I can help these guys voice their opinion and beliefs.
JH:How has social media benefited your career?
Kicks: Social media has been my biggest outlet ever. It's free advertisement. I've been able to tackle it and use it to its main force. So for any kids out there or anyone trying to pursue their goals, it is just a perfect outlet.
JH: In the long run, do you have any specific goals for your brand? Is there a dream opportunity that you want?
Kicks: I would definitely want to work with Kevin Durant, but I would love to collaborate with a big sneaker company. Also having my own storefront but you know, it's all a work in progress.