Whether it’s restorations or customizations, Eric Conner’s Sneaker Hospital takes your old and worn out shoes and gives them new life. The 20-year-old sneakerhead is a one-person band: He does all of his work himself from a spare bedroom in his parent's home in Brooklyn, NY.
Visiting his workspace is like entering a Geppetto’s workshop for sneakers. Vintage sewing machines, shoes and designer fabric swatches from the likes of Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and other luxury labels line the small bedroom.
Conner buys bags, clothes and other items from the brands’ official stores as well as reputable consignment shops and then repurposes the fabric to make his creations, which can range from $250 to more than $1,500.
Conner, who goes by econn_customs on Instagram, knew he wanted to customize shoes for a living since he was in high school. He remembers some of his teachers at Fort Hamilton High School in Brooklyn thinking he was a bit misguided.
“They thought I was crazy when I said I wanted to do this for a living,” he said.
The main tool of Conner’s trade is a vintage Singer Patcher sewing machine, which he bought from a Queen’s tailor for around $1,400. Starting a business customizing shoes was tough for the Brooklyn native. Conner faced a huge hurdle at the onset — he didn’t know how to sew — so he taught himself.
“No one taught me how to thread a needle or thread a machine, so I learned that … then I had to learn how to manage my time with making the sneakers and managing orders,” he said.
Conner says that he currently has over 150 outstanding orders — and since everything is handmade, time is an essential ingredient. The Sneaker Hospital founder says he fills about 8-10 orders a month and that it takes about 4 to 6 weeks to complete an order.
Conner has some pretty impressive clientele. Musicians 2 Chainz and Justin Timberlake, whose Jordan retro 3’s were made to commemorate the star selling out three consecutive shows at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
Though it’s called the Sneaker Hospital, Conner does more than restore sneakers. He also creates custom Apple AirPod cases, Apple Watch bands and even hockey masks using the same designer material that he uses to make his customized sneakers. Conner is also branching out and starting to collaborate with other companies. California cannabis company GasHouse recently commissioned him to create lighter cases.
When Conner isn’t making custom kicks, he’s studying entrepreneurship and design at Baruch College in New York City.
Reggie Wade is a writer for Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @ReggieWade.
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