Sneakers as Art

Kiandra Peart has customized over 100 pairs of sneakers and believes her art business and engineering both involve problem solving and developing creative solutions.

Third-year mechanical engineering student Kiandra Peart has customized over 100 pairs of sneakers in the last five years. She grew up in Queens, New York, with a father as an artist in a home that celebrated creative forms of expression.

While in high school, Peart wanted a different color shoe but couldn’t just buy a new pair – so she decided to paint them herself. Searching the internet for what she could learn, she discovered a world of people who painted sneakers.

I started going back to change old sneakers and wearing them to school and posting them online. I received positive feedback from classmates and the online community, and I decided to turn it into a business,” Peart explains. After creating a logo and business cards, and with support from her family, she founded Kustoms by Ki.

She draws inspiration from what she sees online and artists like Takashi Murakami and Keith Haring, but also says that a lot of people come to her with their own ideas. She’s always looking at what new sneakers are coming out to see how they are structured or designed. “It’s a challenge matching the artistic idea to the right sneaker. It’s really satisfying matching the perfect shoe to the design I had in my head.”

Peart doesn’t think mechanical engineering and her art business intersect right now, and that’s all right with her but does feel both make her think and use her creativity. “I’ve always had to balance art and engineering. Both involve problem solving and developing creative solutions, and I feel as though they each help me with the other. I keep mechanical engineering and entrepreneurship separate and don’t think I need to force a connection because I love both.”

This summer, Peart interned with Procter & Gamble working with robotics, programming, and optimizing processes, which she says solidified her passion for engineering and her career path. 

Although engineering may be in her future, she hasn’t shaken the entrepreneurship bug. She’s recently started a vending machine business and helped found a new student organization, The Black Market, a Black entrepreneurship group to help learn about and build businesses while providing a support system.

Peart’s father is still amazed by the artistic quality of the shoes she creates, while she focuses on getting better and better with each shoe she designs. Not knowing where mechanical engineering, art, or entrepreneurship will take her, one thing is certain: Kiandra Peart is ready for the journey.