At Giro, the design process never ends. We’re always looking forward to the next iteration and always dreaming of ways to improve what we just created. And we love it when you dream of ways to improve our designs too—and then make that vision a reality.

That’s exactly what we’ve seen happen with the Empire shoe collection. Artists and craftsmen are using these shoes as a canvas to express their vision and create incredible pieces of art.

We’ve seen some stunning work, and below we are proud to share a few stories behind some of our favorites. We are honored every time our bike shoes are transformed into #bikeshoeart.

Chas Christiansen is all about the search for stoke. Originally hailing from the Pacific Northwest, he now lives in San Francisco where he runs TCB Courier, his bike messenger service. When Chas isn’t in the City, he’s traveling the world racing fixed gear crits and alley cats for Mash SF. Travel is a huge part of Chas’ life, and he uses art “as a way to transfer life as I see it into some sort of permanence.” And that’s exactly what he did with his Empire VR90’s.

Chas describes his art on the PMA-FTW shoes as “constant reminders to stay stoked! Stay positive, keep moving forward and keep your eyes and mind open to the world! PMA - positive mental attitude. FTW - fuck the world (do your own thing fuck what other people think).”

The artwork on these shoes took Chas about 30 hours over the course of two weeks. He first clear coated the shoes with a heavy Krylon Clear Coat and then used DECO oil based paint pens. The clear coat gave the pens a good surface to adhere to and provided a slightly glossy finish. When he started drawing, he had a vague idea of what he wanted to do, but mostly just got started and went with where it took him. That’s how Chas’ art typically comes together.

From a distance these shoes might be telling you to stay stoked, but you need to look closely to really appreciate the details. “There are a ton of hidden messages on these shoes, acronyms and slang from life ripping the streets,” Chas explains. Curious about what a few of them are? “25/37 is good luck, the extra photo you get on a 24 and 36 roll of film. TSR is ‘take some risk.’ 187 is an old messenger race team I was on when I first moved to SF.” Those are just a few of his hidden messages, so keep looking and see what else you can spot.

“The thing that inspired me to use Giro shoes (as a canvas) was the fact that I wear them all the time. It is great to customize a product that you can then use everyday!”

Follow Chas on Instagram: @notchas
See more of his work: www.notchas.com
Jimbo Phillips is a legendary Santa Cruz artist who is an important part of the local skate and surf culture. He specializes in loud designs with bright colors and eye-popping graphics, so we knew he was the right guy for the job when Bradley Wiggins requested a pair of custom Giro Empire SLX shoes inspired by the Rickenbocker 330 guitar used by U.K. mod icon Paul Weller of The Jam. The artwork on this guitar is inspired by Roy Lichenstein’s 1963 pop art painting “Whaam!” Jimbo custom painted these Empire SLX shoes to match that painting and Weller’s guitar, and Bradley Wiggins raced in these incredible pieces art at the 2016 Tour of California.

To get the artwork perfectly represented on the shoes, Jimbo followed a detailed process. “First I mocked up the art digitally on the shoes to see where things would land,” he explained. “Then I drew up a stencil and applied it to the shoes. I filled in all the colors, then outlined the colors with black. After all the art was on the shoes I hit them with a clear coat.” The shoes took Jimbo about five hours to paint, and he used Posca paint pens to provide a vibrant look.

Jimbo said that Giro Empire SLX shoes make a good canvas for artwork because they have a great surface and are very sturdy. “The paint went on very smoothly, and they were very nice to work on. Also the fact that they will be flying down the road on a bike gives them an action vibe that warrants a great paint job!”

Follow Jimbo on Instagram: @jimbophillips
See more of his work: http://www.jimbophillips.com

Follow Bradley Wiggins on Instagram: @bradwiggins
Jeremiah Kille is a native to Santa Cruz, California. He began his career as a custom surfboard builder, and he’s now an incredible, well-rounded artist. He explores themes of nature and coexistence, using stylistic approaches that range from loosely abstracted to highly rendered objects, creating a juxtaposition of reality and surrealism. Jeremiah is also a passionate cyclist who is close friends with John Caletti, the custom frame builder behind Caletti Cycles.

John wanted to build a showstopper bike for the 2016 North American Handmade Bicycle Show (NAHBS), so he asked Jeremiah to custom paint one of his frames. Along with that frame, Jeremiah painted a pair of Empire ACC shoes, a Synthe helmet, and even a Caletti-built slingshot. His painting on each of these pieces used the same theme, which he describes as “a nautical sea creature intertwined with geometric pattern and abstracted water line work that reoccurs in a lot of my work. I live in Santa Cruz on the ocean so the ocean seemed as good of inspiration as any.”

Painting the frame, shoes, helmet, and slingshot took over 60 hours, with the shoes taking about five hours to complete. Jeremiah used a brush and worked with One Shot sign paint. He chose not to use a paint pen because he didn’t want people to see the start and stop points of the strokes. “I wanted to use something with more opacity, something durable. I applied it with a paint brush which took much longer to apply versus using a paint pen but the end result was much more satisfying to me.”

Jeremiah’s wanted the art to feel like a sketch in an artist sketchbook, which is why he chose black paint on a white surface. “I also painted as if it was a sketchbook, nothing was very planned out. I wanted it to have an organic feel.” He explained that the flat surface of the shoes made them a great substrate for his artwork. “I also love Giro products. The shoes are exactly what I wear when I'm riding, so I guess I'm a little biased.”

The frame that Jeremiah painted for Caletti Cycles won the award for “Best Finish” at NAHBS. You can see the finished result here.

Follow Jeremiah on Instagram: @jeremiahkille
See more of his work: www.jeremiahkille.com

Follow John Caletti on Instagram: @caletticycles
See more of his work: www.caletticycles.com
Amanda Schaper is one of our own—she’s Giro’s Marketing Manager, and when she’s not here in the office, she’s often found lining up at elite-level cyclocross races. Last November, she traveled to Victoria, BC, to race the 2015 Single Speed Cyclocross World Championships (SSCXWC). If you know anything about this event, you know costumes are a big deal. Amanda decided to bring some fairy dust to the race by dressing up as Tinker Bell, and her custom Empire VR90’s were the best part of her costume.

While most custom shoes are embellished with paint, Amanda took a different approach. “I definitely don’t consider myself an artist. But crafty? Absolutely.” When she looked at her Tinker Bell costume, she knew that a stock color Empire VR90 wouldn’t cut it. “I kept thinking about how amazing it would look to have a pair of glittery green Empire VR90’s. So I decided to give it a try.”

Amanda spent a few days masking off various layers of spray glue and glitter to create her vision of sparkly green shoes with a white logo. “I started by masking off everything that I didn’t want glitter-bombed, even putting small screws in the lace holes to keep them clear.” Her next step was laying down a layer of white glitter in the area of the logo. “I sprayed a layer of glue, sprinkled on the white glitter and applied a thin clear coat to prepare that area for masking.” The next day, she masked the logo using a vinyl sticker over the white area, and then hit the entire shoe with glue, green glitter and a thin clear coat.

Then it came time for the part that made her nervous—removing the masks. “I had no idea if any of this would work. I thought the glue might stick to the masks too strongly, and removing them would just rip apart the glitter layers and ruin the shoes. But amazingly, it worked! I was so stoked when all the masking came off, and I was left with a perfectly sparkly pair of Empire VR90’s.”

She finished the shoes with green laces, a sparkly pom-pom and toe spikes, and then she headed to the race. As it turned out, the glue and glitter technique isn’t super durable when riding and running through sloppy mud, but the Tinker Bell shoes are still proudly displayed in the Giro office—even though they’re missing chunks of glitter and caked in mud.

Fairy dust and toe spikes—what more could Tinker Bell need in a cyclocross shoe? You can see some photos from SSCXWC (including the muddied shoes) and read Amanda’s recap here.

Follow Amanda on Instagram: @ascrapes
Dustin Klein is a maker. He’s compelled to create, and he “focuses that energy into an art practice working with intuition, rhythm, and pattern.” Along with his incredible artwork, one of the things Dustin created is Cadence Collection, a lifestyle cycling apparel brand with a “no-nonsense, progressive approach to design and manufacturing product with purpose.” Dustin’s artwork is an expression of his emotional energy, and we love that he chose Empire VR90’s as a canvas for that expression.

“Just long enough.” That’s how Dustin replied when asked how long it took to complete these shoes. He likes to leave things up to interpretation sometimes, and that’s the approach he took with the art on his Empires. “This style is one that I have been working for the last while now. This type of brushwork is non-representational, leaving it open for people to see many different things within the painting. I have heard people tell me they think it looks like energy or movement.” We love that. Cycling is defined by energy and movement, so it’s perfect that his art would be interpreted as such on a pair of cycling shoes.

Dustin worked with brush and ink, painting directly on the surface of the shoes without any need for primer or sanding. He first put down a template and then brushed on the paint, completing the process with a final clear coat. “Giros lace-up shoes are the best out there,” said Dustin. “They function great and most people I know want to ride them. This along with the fact that they have such a large smooth surface area makes them ideal to embellish.”

Follow Dustin on Instagram: @dustinklein_
See more of his artwork: www.dustinklein.com / www.cadencecollection.com.


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