Eighteen years ago, Nicholas Tai was drawing tazos from Frito-Lay snacks on paper and selling it to his classmates. Today, the 25-year-old is bringing fashion fantasies to life through his sneaker customization company, Entitybeetz.
From your favourite Looney Tunes characters on a pair of Air Force 1’s to your own dreamy portrait on a pair of Clarks, Tai transforms footwear into exclusive statement pieces, worth far more than he charges.
“My price range starts from JMD$4500 and changes based on the condition of the shoe and design,” Tai told BUZZ.
“The materials I use aren’t sold in Jamaica and it’s a bit of a hassle to get so the price might increase over time. I’m supposed to be charging anywhere between US$100-$300 per custom. If I provide the shoe and do the design, that custom can go up to US$300, but if you provide the shoe, the design alone would run you up to US$200. I don’t charge that here because I want everybody to really benefit from it.”
An intrinsic love for fashion
Entitybeetz was founded five years ago and represents Tai’s inherent love for fashion. He was a fashion “baby model” for his photographer dad, and later shaped his style through the Jamaican dance scene. His inspiration widened through world travel, some of which he has experienced as a member of the Jamaica Gymnastics Team.
“I’ve seen different styles, what people like, what they don’t like and what they gravitate to across different age groups,” he said. “Jamaica is a place where fashion is a really big thing, and that cheap and clean way is how the majority of Jamaicans normally go about it as long as it looks good,” he said.
“As long as I can paint on it, you can literally have anything you want on the shoe.”— Tai
After graduating St George’s College, he became a certified gymnast coach and judge which provided funding for his own athletic journey. With a desire to earn additional income, he started designing and printing T-shirts with his brother, and later established Entitybeetz.
“I wanted to focus on shoes and be consistent in that. I chose the name ‘Entity’ because any customization I make is distinct and noticeable from a mile away. Someone may have a smiley face on their shoe and a sad person sees it and it makes them feel better, or even get butterflies on their shoe to represent that spirit of freedom.
“As long as I can paint on it, you can literally have anything you want on the shoe. I also do jeans, hats, pants, wallets, purses, phone cases, earpod cases and earpods. I use leather acrylic paint and each colour is done over five to six times so the design is waterproof. It takes a lot of time, but it makes the person feel special as they’re the only one with that custom.”
Like many other businesses, Entitybeetz has felt the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, but Tai still has loyal clients.
“Jamaicans don’t really take the shoe thing that serious, but the people who do are the clients who come back and make the brand what it is. I have four shoes working on now that are high-end brands. It’s still slow but it’s feasible and worth it at the end of the day.”
He hopes to expand his canvas to home and office spaces and envisions Entitybeetz as a worldwide brand.
“I see myself going into schools and teaching kids to customize,” he said. “Schools tell kids that you have to have degrees to be successful but it’s about what you love, what you can do and what you can capitalise on and make a profit from. If I can bring a different lifestyle to someone that is less fortunate and it’ll help them be a better person, that’s something I’m willing to do.”