College sophomore En Hao is an economics major with a talent for something more than sketching supply and demand curves — designing and painting shoes.
His customers walk in “En Hao Kicks” all over the country, in big cities like New York and Miami, on college campuses like the University of California at Davis and even in Doha, Qatar.
“People come up with ideas for shoes, and I paint what they want onto the shoe,” Hao, who transferred to Penn from Cornell University last fall, said.
These different ideas include portraits of Jack Johnson and John Mayer, an entire crew team sailing through the water and an imitation of Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night painting.
On Wednesday, Hao showcased his work on Locust Walk as a part of Keds’ “How Do You Do?” marketing campaign in Philadelphia.
“[Hao] is the perfect example of serious creativity applied to every day,” College sophomore Jenna Heidenberg, a Keds campus representative, said.
With special leather paints, the budding artist creates colorful shoes that are not only fun to look at but are also wearable and waterproof.
“[Customers] have different degrees of knowledge of what they want,” Hao said, adding that every shoe is one of a kind.
Potential customers can explore Hao's work and order shoes on his website.
“En Hao Kicks is indicative of how a young creative person does something,” said Heidenberg, who paired Hao and Keds with the help of Wharton junior and Wharton Retail Club President Marlena Filipowska.
Filipowska added that Keds are classic given their long history, and that Hao “takes advantage of these simple sneakers and makes them special for everyone.”
Hao displayed four pairs of shoes with designs inspired by Penn and Philadelphia.
Each pair was painted differently — a yellow women’s shoe showcased the Philadelphia skyline, complete with the Comcast building. Hao’s trademark signature, along with a design of the love statue, is displayed on the back of the shoe.
Another pair of men’s shoes was embellished with a detailed design of College Hall and the Quadrangle with Hao’s signature juxtaposed against the Penn coat of arms.
After the event, students were able to bid on the shoes through En Hao’s Facebook fan page. The auction will run for a week, starting on Thursday.
“Keds is the original canvas shoe, and for En, it’s literally a canvas,” Heidenberg said.
Hao has painted 26 pairs of shoes total, but no one on Penn’s campus owns a pair of these colorful, unique shoes yet.
“Right now I am a full-time college student, and my main goal is to build brand awareness,” Hao said. Hao hopes to accomplish this through events like the Keds campaign.
However, he is also hoping to help the community with his company. Hao is in talks with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and hopes to connect with Boston Celtics Basketball player Ray Allen.
Looking forward, Hao hopes to customize a pair of shoes for Allen — whose son has juvenile diabetes — and then sell the shoe, giving all of the proceeds to charity.
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