University of Wisconsin student Matt Burzec is making waves in the world of sneakers and apparel. His company Kicks of Chicago specializes in customized Air Force Ones, Vans, Timberlands and other shoes.

Recently, Burzec has expanded into everything from UW-themed paintings to customized designer clothing. His work has attracted the attention of high-profile celebrities, from NBA player Mike Beasley to Chicago rappers.

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Burzec, raised in North Chicago, attended Whitney M. Young Magnet High School. He played basketball throughout his life, and said his teammates and friends’ sneakerhead culture inspired and influenced Kicks of Chicago.

“Chicago is known for sneakers, and the city’s culture plays a huge role in what my brand is and the roots of it,” Burzec said.

When he was younger, Burzec’s teachers noticed his artistic abilities. He would doodle in class constantly. Some of his teachers pushed him to enter art competitions, where he could hone his talent. Burzec said while he didn’t consider himself the greatest artist, he could apply his drawing and painting talents to shoe customization. 

In 2017, Burzec began customizing sneakers while at a camp in San Francisco, where he had to do an independent project.

“I didn’t have an idea going in, so I just decided to customize shoes,” Burzec said.

He painted creative designs onto white Air Force Ones. Burzec didn’t plan on starting a serious business at first, but by 2019, began marketing and selling his products. He launched a website and promoted his customized sneakers through social media.

Kicks of Chicago soon expanded its product lineup. Burzec sold paintings, customized clothing and other accessories. Surprisingly, Burzec said Kicks of Chicago has always been a one-man operation, and that he is responsible for all shipping and marketing. 

Burzec’s tireless promotion has paid off, as Kicks of Chicago has caught the attention of various celebrities. Lil Bibby, Chicago rapper and label executive for the late Juice WRLD, reached out over Instagram DMs to purchase exclusive products.

“Seeing Lil Bibby hit me up was super unexpected,” Burzec said. “I couldn’t believe it.”

Next, rising Chicago artist Lil Zay Osama requested a customized pair of Dior overalls. Burzec said that Lil Zay’s order had to be the most challenging piece he’s ever done. Burzec had to customize this expensive product before Lil Zay’s concert. Traveling between multiple cities to get the necessary supplies, he gave Lil Zay the overalls right in time for his show.

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In the future, Burzec hopes to make products for drill rapper Chief Keef and NBA legend Kevin Durant. As his business improves every day, Burzec’s dreams look more attainable than ever.