Exploring Laura Chu Chu’s action-packed custom shoes

Quarantine hobby turned to a custom sneaker business with the help of TikTok

Chu turned a quarantine hobby into a custom design shoe business after a viral TikTok video. Courtesy Laura Chu

Montreal-based artist Laura Chu, also known as “Laura Chu Chu,” makes custom sneakers that combine her love of anime, art, and fashion into eye-catching and wearable art pieces. 

Chu went viral on TikTok after showing off her art skills on a pair of Nike Air Force 1’s, attracting anime and fashion-lovers alike. Thanks to her TikTok success, Chu embarked on a new business venture to explore her potential as an artist. 

Initially, Chu started her art business by creating digital fanart of herself posing with popular anime characters, such as Ryuk from Death Note and Kakashi Hatake from Naruto.The shift to custom shoes came after she found that digital designs weren’t as popular among customers. 

“People were not looking for commissions, unless it was for, let’s say, an album cover or profile pictures,” she said.  

To start, Chu designed a shoe for herself and from there the whole thing blew up. With a fresh business idea in mind, Chu scrolled through Instagram to find inspiration. She grabbed her tablet and sketched out designs for a potential shoe.

Laura Chu documented the design and creation of her first pair of shoes and posted it to TikTok, which later went viral. Courtesy Laura Chu

With an old pair of Air Force 1’s and leather paint, Chu documented her art experiment on TikTok, which later went viral with over 300,000 views. 

“After that, I was getting customers from around the world and it really motivated me to do my own designs,” she said.

She spent days adjusting her business model to accommodate local and international customers, from pick-up orders to international shipping.

Despite the dramatic shift in her business from digital art to custom shoes, her customers praise her hand painting skills in replicating anime art. 

Customer Meaghan Pawlowski admires Chu’s accuracy of replicating anime characters in her art, compared to other artists.

“I couldn’t believe she drew it herself,” she said. 

Pawlowski, a Concordia graduate, was on the hunt to find the perfect graduation present. When she discovered Chu’s shoes on TikTok, she immediately messaged her for a pair and requested to have her favourite anime characters, Levi Ackerman from Attack on Titan and Katsuki Bakugou from My Hero Academia, on her shoes.

Laura Chu custom-designed a pair of sneakers for rapper Konscious Ka$h using his lyrics. Courtesy Karsheen Azeem

Aside from shoes, Chu provides design services for other businesses, such as posters, cover art, and other products. She also works alongside Long Island musician Karsheen “Konscious Ka$h” Azeem on various art projects for his music.

Azeem was preparing to release his EP, TNT: Trials and Tribulations, and wanted a pair of shoes that matched the aesthetic of his merchandise. After he discovered Chu’s shoes on TikTok, he decided to order a pair with his lyrics painted on them. 

“They’re like a crown on my head,” he said, referring to his custom-painted sneakers. “I felt like she added her own personal touch on the shoes. She put her own stamp on it and it felt authentic. It’s not just my shoe, it’s us collaborating in a way.” 

Chu also helped Azeem with his EP cover art at the last minute. In a matter of days, Chu illustrated his EP cover and included a personalized mascot for his merch. 

“I felt like she added her own personal touch on the shoes. She put her own stamp on it and it felt authentic. It’s not just my shoe, it’s us collaborating in a way.” — Karsheen Azeem

“[Art] has always been my biggest passion and I’ve poured so much time into [it] throughout the years, so seeing my art being appreciated by numerous people around the world is a big accomplishment for me!” said Chu.

Chu's business has opened many doors for her, including an offer to create custom designs for a company who mass-produces shoes.

“I don’t plan on having this business for more than a year or two, I’m eventually going to stop,” said Chu. “I do want to start my own e-commerce and online businesses, and I’m still studying for it. I have a couple of ideas, but it’s a work in progress and that’s eventually what I would like to do.”