Dominic Chambrone started customizing sneakers as a way to express his creativity while attending high school in Santa Rosa, California. More than a decade later, the cobbler has turned his one-time hobby into a full-fledged business with an international following and major celebrity supporters.
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Better known as the “Shoe Surgeon” to his nearly 375,000 Instagram followers, Chambrone has designed custom sneakers for rapper Drake, pop star Justin Bieber and NBA superstar LeBron James, among countless other celebrities. Companies such as Jack Daniel’s, Pizza Hut, and his latest partner, Frito-Lay’s Ruffles brand, have commissioned Chambrone to apply his signature artistry to footwear collaborations.
Chambrone, who also creates custom clothing, furniture and accessories, says his custom-made sneakers typically sell for anywhere from $500 to $30,000 per pair.
“I found that designing footwear was a way to express my individuality, and the exclusivity of personalizing each pair fueled my passion for learning and perfecting the craft behind it,” Chambrone told FOX Business. “Personally, I look at each shoe I create as a wearable work of art.”
Chambrone’s business has expanded beyond individual projects. The 31-year-old sells some of his designs through the Surgeon Studios website and runs the Shoe Surgeon Shoe School, where fans and would-be apprentices can enroll in workshops to learn the shoe-making process from start to finish, with an artistic twist.
The classes, which are held at both the school’s West Hollywood studio and pop-up locations in cities in the U.S. and abroad, cost $3,000 and sell out quickly.
“We travel around the world to teach the full deconstruction, reconstruction process of shoemaking to students of all backgrounds and skill levels,” Chambrone said. “I didn’t have someone to teach me the intricacies of the craft, so I wanted to create a community where I can offer that insight to aspiring creatives.”
Collaborations with celebrities and athletes have helped Chambrone expand beyond his prominent place in “sneakerhead” culture and draw attention from companies looking for unique ways to interact with fans.
In his latest partnership, Chambrone designed a custom pair of limited-edition, Ruffles-branded sneakers for the potato chip brand’s “Sneaker Stash” program. Running from July 2 to Aug. 10, the brand will give away one pair of sought-after shoes each day, with Chambrone’s entry serving as the grand prize.
“I don’t think this is a sign of the culture going mainstream, but a realization that this community has a huge following, with people passionate about the quality and creativity that goes into sneaker design,” Chambrone said.
A self-admitted “perfectionist,” Chambrone is known to be obsessive about his creations. As an entrepreneur, Chambrone said he has to remind himself that micromanagement isn’t always the answer.
“I’ve found myself getting too caught up in the small details that I know I could do over and make better the next time,” Chambrone said. “Focusing on the bigger picture and trusting the process has been an important lesson in growing our business and the Shoe Surgeon team."