Sole Artistry: The art of painting sneakers with Labaebaa
The art of expressing oneself knows no limits, be it through words, images, art or even the Spotify playlist you made for that one individual in your coaching centre. With the onset of keeping up with all things trendy, one of the most common forms of expressing oneself is through what you wear. Sneakers have been a fashion statement for eons due to their varying shapes, colourways and the way they can perfectly complete an outfit and one's style of clothing. For artists, sneakerheads and fashionista's alike, personalised sneakers are the ultimate fashion statement; a wearable that not only keeps your feet dry in Bashundhara when it rains, but is also an extension of one's personality or identity.
Labiba Ibnath Alam and her page, 'Labaebaa Painting on Random Stuff,' caters to those who see sneakers as an extension of themselves. She had started off painting on canvases, however, she had always wanted to paint on sneakers. Her vision of using sneakers as a means of expressing her artistic abilities came to fruition in 2021 when she painted her first pair of all-white Nike Air Force 1's, after sourcing the appropriate paints in 2020. Thus, a niche in the fashion market in Bangladesh was filled and her sneaker-customisation journey began. Finally, an individual who had the means and ability to make someone's sneaker their own, and the crowd loved it. Demand for her customised sneakers knew no bounds, ranging from simple colour-blocks to complex characters from games and anime, and even complicated rickshaw art.
The customisation process starts off with a discussion with the client on what they want portrayed on their sneaker, followed by either receiving the sneaker in question from the client, or ordering the sneaker from her sources. She does not stock up on sneakers, as she sources them whenever an individual places an order. Depending on her client's budget, the choices available range from originals to replicas. The transition from a blank canvas to wearable art takes around six to seven weeks. Ordering an original, however, pushes the timeframe back to eight to nine weeks as it must be imported from abroad. Once the sneaker has arrived, she spends whatever time she has apart from studying to go over the sneaker meticulously with her pencils and brushes. First, a 'deglazer' is applied which peels away the factory finish and allows the paint to better stick to the surface. Next, a rough sketch of the design is done on the sneaker with a pencil. Once she is happy with the sketch and the placement of the art on the sneaker, the design is carefully painted on. Finally, a 'finisher' is applied with a brush over the artwork to seal-in the paint and bring back the factory finish. This finisher is what makes the artwork waterproof, allowing the sneaker to be worn outside in any condition, and then easily cleaned. With the finisher added, the transition is complete and the sneaker is ready to be delivered to an eagerly-waiting customer. Labiba also offers bright and colourful laces that individuals can order with their customised sneakers.
Painting on Nike Air Force 1's has been and continue to be a resounding success for Labiba. According to her, her room is always swamped with boxes of them awaiting delivery or in the customisation pipeline waiting to be painted on. However, since the paint she uses adheres to tumbled, rough and smooth leather, any leather sneaker can be sent in to be personalised. Moreover, individuals who prefer the breathability and texture of fabric sneakers may rejoice as she started taking orders for them recently. Her determination and willingness to explore the use of other products as canvases has resulted in her taking orders for fashion accessories such as leather bags and wallets. While painting for regular clients, her incredible sneaker artwork did not go unnoticed amongst media personalities, having painted for the extraordinary Kishwar Chowdhury, and even Plaantik. In November 2022, she was approached by Coke Studio Bangla to paint a custom sneaker for Pritom Hasan to wear in the music video of their newly-released song 'Deora.' The inspiration behind her artwork for that specific sneaker included traditional Nokshi katha patterns and Alpona.
Receiving a representation of one's personality in the form of a personalised item can be quite daunting, if the representation is not accurately made by the artist. However, Labiba does this flawlessly and strives to do so for every single client. What was once her dream is now a reality, and every customer should have their dream of owning the perfect customised sneaker realised.