Montre Livingston is well known in the blading community as one of the greatest individuals to ever strap on a pair of inline skates, but many that have followed Montre over the years have come to realize is that he is a rare individual who seems to excel at whatever it is you put in front of him. One of Montre’s many skills is that he is a naturally gifted artist which he has now expanded into a successful and sought after custom sneakers business which he has dubbed “Kicks By Tre“. Montre’s skills at footwear customization have developed rapidly and the sky seems the limit as far as his potential is concerned. We had the amazing opportunity to pick Montre’s brain about how he got started making custom kicks and the artistic process behind it.

Kevin Little: Thanks for taking the time to speak with us, Montre. So to get started, what inspired you to start making your own start custom sneakers? Was there a particular moment that sparked your obsession?

Montre Livingston: Well, I’ve always been sort of an artist type. The sneaker thing kinda came randomly. Saw a pair years ago and thought, that looks fun. My roommate at the time, along with his girlfriend, got me a few pairs of all-white Walmart shoes and some markers for a birthday gift and I kinda went from there.

KL: About how long does a normal custom sneaker setup take from start to finish?

ML: A normal custom (example: NASUH custom) would take between 6-8 hours from start to finish with minor interruptions. Some customs can take over 36 hours depending on the detail difficulty. 

KL:  Is there any sneaker designers that you follow that inspire you?

ML: Absolutely. Dillon DeJesus from DCF @(dejesuscustomfootwear) is by far my favorite, not necessarily because his customs are so dope but he also teaches and helps beginners understand the process a bit better. I learned and still learn a ton from him today.

KL: What was your first commissioned piece that you worked on & looking back on it would there be anything you did differently?

ML: Hahaha, my first commissioned piece was I think a Ravens football team theme. The look wasn’t that bad to be honest but, I had no idea the type of materials to use on the shoe to keep the art from being ruined by things like rain and stains. Some of the first pair all got destroyed when they got wet. I did learn how to use wax as an water proofer but, it also didn’t last long haha. If I did anything differently, I’d have did my research on materials hahaha.

KL: How has your approach to custom designs changed since you first started?

ML: Well before, I was only doing what was fun for me as I was kinda practicing as I went. I didn’t really have a direction or an idea of what I wanted to do with it all. It was just, “make some shoes and sell them” hahaha. After a few years and tons more knowledge of how it all works, I found my style and what’s best/easiest for me. That made it easier for me to step out of my comfort zone and do things I’ve never tried which in turn, helped make me much better. Now my approach to it all is, take your time, and find time to NOT think about the art. Let it come to me type ish hahaha.

KL: What is your all-time favorite shoe model/models and your personal favorite colorway?

ML: The Jordan 4 with the original black, red and gray color way.

KL: What are some of your basic tools that you use to create your customs?

ML: I use Masters Airbrush Kit. Comes with an airbrush, a compressor, and the things to clean it. A Masters Airbrush Booth. This is where I place the shoes to be sprayed. The booth has a ventilation system that hooks up to a hose that flows out of the Shoe Dojo window. Angelus paints and cleaning products as well. Cotton balls, Q tips, napkins.

KL: What has been your most difficult custom and how long did it take to complete it?

ML: So far my most difficult custom had to be the AKIRA Custom SSM skates I did a while back for a client. I lost track of the hours but, they took me about a week to do. The amount of details this boot had was insane. I also did a ton of it free hand while most my customs are done using an airbrush. They came out soooooo good hahahaha. The best pair of skates I’ve ever done.

KL: What has been your favorite custom setup so far?

ML: That’s a tuff one. I’ve done so many for others and so many for myself and my showcase but, I’d say my most recent pair of Donut Customs are one of the most eye catching and I did them for myself so, guess it’s a favorite haha.

KL: We know you have been collaborating with several brands on shoe designs, which one so far has been your personal favorite?

ML: Anytime I collab with JOKESUP is the best. The entire RUNTZ crew are dope individuals with a passion on style and know what’s dope. NASUH has to be my all time favorite for sure. The shoes we’ve produced together are all over the place worn by celebrity types and big business owners. And we continue to keep changing them up to keep up with the vibes.

KL: Do you have any upcoming projects you can already tell us more about?

ML: Not necessarily. I do a lot more commission work at the moment but hoping to get back out into the art show world and get booths in a few sneaker events. Then I will come up with some cray sneaker designs for the showcase haha.

KL: Is designing sneakers something you’d also want to do in a professional way, like working for a brand or doing an official collaboration release?

ML: I can’t really say right now but, it’s mad fun to be able to come up with ways to make a shoe look completely different and I’ve sketched up my own shoe styles here and there and have taken time to learn how to make my own shoe from the ground up. No matter what, the knowledge I’ve gained could mosdef put me in a situation to work with a big brand. If the time ever comes, I’d for sure give it my all.

KL: For someone wanting to get started in custom shoe design, what would be your words of wisdom for a newbie?

ML: For anyone wanting to get in this sneaker art world, I’d say just do it for the fun. Don’t do it to get paid because, that’s not easy haha. It takes time to find your style and for the clients to see that you have something they want. Build your skills up for a year. Make free pairs for your friends and family to wear out and about. They are your personal advertising group. Practice on all types of shoes and don’t buy the cheap craft paints at Walmart and Michael’s haha. They don’t have the additives needed to hold up on sneakers. Learn the craft as much as possible and the most important thing is, PREP WORK IS KEY!!! If you don’t prep your shoes first, the art won’t hold.

KL: Do you have any parting words or people that you would like to thank for their help or support?

ML: Always a big shout out to my Mom for passing down her art skills to me haha. Shout out NASUH and E-Rod. Shout out the whole RUNTZ gvng. Shout out my lady for buying me my first airbrush and supporting from day one. Lastly shout out all the amazing clients I’ve had so far. Oh yea, shout out Be-Mag for this interview hahaha!!