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David Zambrano of “DezCustomz” Talks to Us About Family, Art, And When He Finally Thought He’d “Made It”

David Zambrano isn’t your madre’s artist. Zambrano, the owner of DEZ Customz Art, is part of the new guard of artists and content creators on the internet who march to the beat of their own drum. The LA-born and DC-based artist and shoe customizer (known as Dez to his customers) started his art career customizing cars before he pivoted to shoes. Although Zambrano will be the first to tell you that his journey to success was long and difficult, he worked at his dream long enough to become the shoe-customizer to the stars. You can see Zambrano’s artful customizations of sneakers, cleats, and high tops on countless all-star athletes, from Tom Brady to Stephen Curry. 

But his client roster isn’t the only thing worth being impressed by. Zambrano boasts 115,000 followers on Instagram, landing him squarely in social media influencer territory (even if he doesn’t like the term).  A quick scroll through Zambrano’s page will expose you to the depths of his talent. Recently, we had a chance to talk to this Latino visionary about family, artistic integrity, and why he doesn’t think of himself as an “influencer”.

M: Tell us a little about your process–where do you get your ideas from? Do they come to you naturally or do you have to brainstorm them?

DZ: I get inspiration from everywhere. When customers come to us for work, we have to cater to their requests. I love taking their ideas and making one-of-a-kind pieces from them. I love graffiti art. A lot of my canvas works have elements of graffiti art in them. I’ve always loved that style.

M: How did you get into customization?

DZ: My road to success has been a rough one. It didn’t really take off until I was in my late 30s. It’s a long story, but I’ll give you the short version. It was a fortunate combination of incredible circumstances. I’ve always been in art. At the time, I had tried to start a few art-focused businesses and they all failed. I had resigned myself to the fact that art would be a hobby for me. I was managing a body shop and painting artwork on cars, helmets, and motorcycles. A kid approached me via a phone call and we started to work together customizing shoes. He brought me clients and I did the artwork. We were invited to NY Sneaker Con for the first-ever Ace of Customs Competition and we won. That was the beginning of it all. 

M: What did you think when your designs first started to gain attention online?

DZ: The first time you see your work on a sports broadcast, or really anywhere, is crazy. One of the first times was when I did cleats for London Fletcher for his last game in the NFL. It got picked up all over the place–images were on the news. It was crazy. Another time I did cleats for AJ Green of The Bengals. It hit everywhere, sports blogs and everything. It was all surreal. I was among some of the first customizers to have their work picked up online through multiple media outlets and on TV. It was crazy. It still is really cool when the work gets picked up.

M: Can you tell us about the time when you first thought to yourself, “I’ve made it”?

DZ: It took so long to believe that I was even okay in this business. So many failures make you doubt and even resist success. I was always waiting for the rug to get pulled out from under me. I was always prepared to go back to work for someone else. I had kids and couldn’t afford to be prideful. So it took about 2-3 years of steady business for me to believe I had made it. It’s weird to even say it now.

M: What did you think when your designs first started to gain attention online?

DZ: The first time you see your work on a sports broadcast, or really anywhere, is crazy. One of the first times was when I did cleats for London Fletcher for his last game in the NFL. It got picked up all over the place–images were on the news. It was crazy. Another time I did cleats for AJ Green of The Bengals. It hit everywhere, sports blogs and everything. It was all surreal. I was among some of the first customizers to have their work picked up online through multiple media outlets and on TV. It was crazy. It still is really cool when the work gets picked up.

M: Can you tell us about the time when you first thought to yourself, “I’ve made it”?

@dezcustomz/Instagram

DZ: It took so long to believe that I was even okay in this business. So many failures make you doubt and even resist success. I was always waiting for the rug to get pulled out from under me. I was always prepared to go back to work for someone else. I had kids and couldn’t afford to be prideful. So it took about 2-3 years of steady business for me to believe I had made it. It’s weird to even say it now.

M: Why do you think people resonate with your work?

DZ: The reason I feel the work resonates with people is that they see the detail, pride, and passion. Another reason I think is that I don’t make my personal life some weird secret. I post my failures, my struggles, about the love I have for my family, my kids, my life and art. I think people like to see that. I think when you’re human, people find it easy to root for you. At least I hope they do. I always tell people: if you knew what I’ve been through, you would cheer for me! I really believe that. I have suffered for this craft. There was a time my family had to move three times in three years because I couldn’t make the rent. The last time, my son was only one year old. I had to be away from him for a month because of the living situation. It killed me. 99.9% of people wouldn’t go through that, no matter how much they love something. I’ve shed blood and tears for this. I feel like that comes out in everything I do artistically.

M: Of all the shoes you’ve worked on, what’s your personal favorite?

@dezcustomz/Instagram

DZ: Choosing one shoe as my favorite is sincerely an impossible question to answer. I have so many favorites. There are some that have emotional ties, others that have just been very near to me, like a favorite show or movie, actor or character. I’ve done portraits of people that have died, those always hit me hard. So yeah, really it’s impossible to say.  

M: When you first committed to this career path, were there any people in your life who didn’t believe you could make a living off of customizing shoes? How did you overcome self-doubt?

DZ: Committing to this was hard because of the failures that I had already experienced, some of which I mentioned earlier. I was constantly worried that I would let my family down. Incredibly, my wife had the most faith. She pushed me, and that meant a lot. More people doubted me than the number of people that thought it was possible. That fueled me. That gave me all the resiliency I needed to keep going. And honestly, for me, God. I believe that a person like me is blessed with a life like this only through the grace of God. I don’t push my faith on anyone, but that’s what I believe wholeheartedly.

M: On your Instagram, you’ve spoken a lot about how important art is to you. Was there ever a time you turned down a commission based off of your own artistic integrity? What would make you refuse a customer?

@dezcustomz/Instagram

DZ: We don’t turn down too many works as long as we’re allowed to be creative. There are occasions where we have, though. Simply, we don’t copy work. We won’t recreate something that someone else has already done. I won’t create hate art either. I won’t create something that relates hate towards another human.

M: Who are some Latino artists that you look up to as role models?

DZ: I don’t think I could name a favorite artist. To be honest, I have a fascination with all things art. I respect so many artists that I would not feel comfortable naming any, even a couple. I take influence and inspiration from everything I see. I think as artists, we simply see things more vividly, we feel things deeper. That’s what brings the art out.  

M: What exciting things do you have planned for your next career move and your future as an influencer?

@dezcustomz/Instagram

DZ: I have no idea what the future holds. In all honesty, whatever I do I know that art has to be involved. In a perfect world, I would be more focused on canvas work, interior murals, and tattoos. I don’t see myself as an influencer. I think that word is overused and I feel like it waters down an individual. I see some influencers post constantly and ‘create’ content constantly because of the pressure to stay relevant, but in doing so the product suffers. I sometimes don’t post for days. And that’s ok. I’ll post when I create something that inspires me to post. 

M: What would you tell fans of yours who are looking to follow in your footsteps as shoe artist, content creator, and an influencer?

DZ: I would tell anyone looking to become a shoe customizer or simply creating art, period, be true to the art. Never do it for popularity, likes, attention etc. Value your skill and people will learn to value it. And if they don’t, then that’s not a reflection of you.   

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Women Are Sharing Their Sage Heel Shopping Advice

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Women Are Sharing Their Sage Heel Shopping Advice

When it comes to heels the options can beyond overwhelming. From stilettos and block heels to wedges and kitten heels, these pumps are proof that when it comes to shoes it’s not always a one-size-fits-all kind of game.

Women on Reddit recently gathered around on a discussion board, to share their best type of heel advice for women.

Check it out below!

“Sarah Flint is great if you really want to invest. Cole Haan is my personal go-go, but I’ve had success with Corso Como as well. J. Crew also has a surprisingly good selection of footwear and I snag trendy or statement shoes from them from time to time. All of these makers have small sizes in-stock as part of their standard offering.

For heels in particular I think committing to leather is important–if you buy them in the proper size they’ll “mold” to your feet in a way that synthetic materials never will. Pretty important for us wee ones who often have to deal with things running large to begin with.

edited for the bot”- ONTaF

“Thanks for the advice! Every pair of Cole Haan shoes I’ve tried haven’t been my favorites, so I’ll check out the others!”- mimosaandmagnolia

“While decidedly not an expert on heels, I checked the gf’s closet and found lots of Cole Haan and Burberry. She’s on her feet all day doing rounds at the hospital so she’s literally put a premium and is willing to pay a premium to be comfortable when she dresses up (however infrequent that’s been in the last year).

These may be outside your budget if purchased new, but may be brands to keep an eye out for at Nordstrom Rack, etc.”- itsonlyastrongbuzz

“Cole Haan for me. I have a pair of navy capped toe pumps that have lasted me for years and are very comfortable. For particularly small feet, I would recommend a Salvatore Ferragamo Vara pump. They’ve got a nice low heel, come in loads of colors, and they too last a long time if you take good care of them.”- Foxlurker8

“Hi! I think Franco Sarto makes a super cute block heel. Practical but still chic. I usually just go to nordstroms and try a bunch on.”- billnyegirl

“I bought a pair of heels once by Franco Sarto and they left blisters on my feet. I was so disappointed because after wearing them for a day my blood stained the tan leather.”- mimosaandmagnolia

“Definitely an investment but it may be worth looking at M Gemi? I bought a pair of their suede loafers on sale and love them — they are so comfortable! Looks like their heels go down to a size 35 (EU) which I think is close to your size?”- WannaWearMyRedShoes

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7 Five-Star Reviewed Plus-Sized Bathing Suits On Etsy

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7 Five-Star Reviewed Plus-Sized Bathing Suits On Etsy

Summer is just around the corner! Which means that it’s time to break out the bikinis and go “skimpy” dipping. Here’s where our list below comes in. Of course, it might seem easier to head over to a big box store like Nordstrom or Target to find your next favorite piece for the summer, but why not support a small business doing the work on Etsy?

We put together a list of top-rated bikini items on Etsy.

Check them out below!

Criss cross bandage suit

LILYSHdesign

Five star and 1,047 sales|Price: $149.00

This top selling swimsuit can be worn both as a swimsuit and paired with skirts and bottoms.

But it here.

Backless Monokini Swimsuit

BlackMintRose

Five star 23 sales|Price: $29.99

This handmade multi color printed high waist swimsuit bikini is perfect with the chica with curves and summer rays on her mind.

But it here.

Sweet swim dress

HerinDesignStudio

Five star 142 sales|Price: $92.00

Combining comfort and style this swimsuit is perfect for the swimmer on the go!

But it here.

Multicolor Stripe Halter Neck One Piece

BlackMintRose

23 sales|Price: $39.99

This handmade multicolor halter top swimsuit is beyond perfect for the LGTBQ proud and or the chica awaiting her hot girl summer. According to one reviewer, the piece is well-made and the seller ships items fast!

But it here.

Blocking High-waisted Two-piece

BlackMintRose

23 sales|Price: $39.99

Handmade and created with flattering colors, this high-waisted two-piece will do more than accentuate your best assets. It’ll have you standing out in the waves!

But it here.

Navy Gingham Reversible High Waist Bikini Set

byswim

224 sales|Price: $65.00

This high-waisted bottom and high neck crop top can be swapped for both the top and or bottom for various looks. Go for gingham or a solid color, either way, you’ll be rocking a classic summer look!

But it here.

Personalized Panama Triangle Reversible Top

byswim

224 sales|Price

Reviewers describe this set as being versatile and comfy to wear. The set is reversible so you can 4 different bathing suit looks in one!

but it here.

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