At the rate that fashion changes, it is hard to find the newest and trendiest pieces on the market. What if you wanted to be different but nothing was sparking your interest? Small business owner and university student Helen Le, has found a business in customizing a large variety of things. Whether it is shoes, bags, or apparel, she is able to customize all and more. Helen started her customization business called “Customs by Len” (IG: @customsby.len) six months ago in October.
“I started this business after I customized my first pair of shoes for my friend.”
Helen has always loved art. She loves to draw and paint and is even minoring visual arts in her post-secondary studies. She says she gets her inspiration from her dad. He taught her everything she knows about art. For her customization business, she looked at social media platforms such as Instagram, where other creators show their unique compositions on shoes and other apparel.
As a full-time student, Helen has to allocate time in order to complete certain customs. “I do all of my hand-painted customizations on my work desk in my bedroom,” she says, and she even stays up until 3 am at times to get in an hour or two of work.
To sketch out her customs, she uses a pencil, eraser, and sometimes a ruler. During the actual painting process, it all depends on the material. When working with leather shoes, an example being Nike Air Force 1, it is first prepped using acetone. Helen uses the brand Angelus to paint, mattify and seal the work on the shoe once completed.
On fabric material like a canvas tote bag, the same process is repeated without acetone and an additive is added to the paint to thin it out. This additive will help to paint on this material and others much easier.
“To be honest, I can’t keep up with fast fashion.”
Fast fashion has become the new way of shopping. In which, big brands like Fashion Nova, Shein, and Boohoo profit off mainstream styles for a ridiculously low price. For people like Helen who customize, this poses a problem.
“The industry is always changing and I’m hoping my future clients will come to me to revamp their old shoes and clothing,” she says. In fact, in correlation to Good On You, “brands like Fashion Nova, Boohoo, and etc., score less than 10% on the Fashion Transparency Index.” This means that these companies are not transparent in terms of human rights, workers’ rights, pollution and unsustainable resources.
Buying from a small business allows for the customer and owner to be transparent in the product. Many people prefer knowing that their product was sustainably made and uses quality products.
Helen enjoys working one on one with customers as it enhances the experience. “You ask customers what they want and how they want it… the end result is amazing because it’s a collaboration of both of us,” she says.
“I’m planning to do a bunch of designs right now.”
Helen customizes products based on what her customer wants. In the near future, she wants to release flash designs and more art to make every product more unique. She wants people to know that mainstream fast-fashion brands value quantity over quality and that supporting small businesses is the way to go. With the current pandemic, it is hard to predict the future of many small businesses.