‘Moment of madness’ leads to Tufnell Park designer’s debut clothing line

Neil Robinson

Neil Robinson - Credit: Archant

A man who defaced an old pair of trainers in a moment of madness now boasts his own clothing line worn by street dance stars Diversity and the cast of The Only Way Is Essex.

Neil Robinson, from Tufnell Park, had always been an arty chap, but after leaving school he worked for the civil service and had little outlet for his creative abilities.

Then earlier this year he was struck by a flash of inspiration as he went to throw away a pair of shoes – one which led to a big change in his life.

“They were just a knackered old pair of plimsolls,” he said. “I was about to put them in the bin when I had this crazy idea to draw on them. It was a moment of madness really.

“They looked quite good, so I took a bit of a gamble and got another pair from upstairs and that weren’t in such bad condition and did those as well. My partner was like ‘what are you doing?’ but when they were finished she liked them.”

Mr Robinson then bought a few pairs of plain white trainers, customised them and showed them to friends.

“I’d say to them ‘do you like these new shoes? I bought them in town for £50’. Once the said they liked them I’d tell them the truth. They wouldn’t believe me at first.

Most Read

“I’d be giving them away to people to start with – road testing them. I had all the proper inks, but I was worried they would run in the rain. I’ve done more than 60 pairs now with no complaints.”

Demand for the shoes grew, so he set up a clothing line: Custom Underground.

He started charging more for the trainers and expanded his range to include snapback caps and skateboards. Before long, fashion bloggers were taking notice and he was invited to display at shows – where dance troupe Diversity, reality TV star Abigail Clarke from The Only Way is Essex and X Factor contestant Kitty Brucknell became fans.

“I would never have thought it would come so far,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it when I got invited to the shows.

“I’ve always like customising things and drew all the time when I was young, but since I left school I didn’t get the chance. I had no outlet for it

“This is the best thing I have ever done. The ideal thing for me now would be for a big company like Vans to pick on of my designs, then they can produce them on a much bigger scale.

To see more, visit www.thecustomunderground.co.uk