Expensive fun: How two hammers manage to sell sneakers for hundreds of euros

By: Rabea Wortmann

Her customers include well-known actors and rappers: Kevin Kocaalan and Kristina Klinger from Hamm decorate sneakers and resell them for hundreds of euros.

Bockum-Hövel - It should hurt the soul of every shoe lover when he sees what Kevin Kocaalan from Hamm does with a pair of really expensive sneakers: The Bockum-Höveler holds a lighter in front of it and lights it up, not even batting an eyelid. Kocaalan is neither a pyromaniac nor a shoe hater - on the contrary. The 28-year-old and his girlfriend Kristina Klinger follow a hype that is mainly known from social media and from celebrities, athletes and influencers. They founded a start-up, "Limited Kickz" - and turn the mass-produced sneakers into one-offs.

Kocaalan didn't actually light the shoe, just heated it with the lighter. "He reacts to heat," says the Bockum-Höveler. Intricately painted flames appear on the shoe as a colorful image that cannot be seen on the shoe at room temperature. Sneakers that change color when it's cold are also part of the repertoire. Others show their patterns in UV light and are therefore a real eye-catcher in clubs, even magnetized sneakers are part of the repertoire of the young shoe artists.

Decorated sneaker trend: The initial spark came during the lockdown

The sneaker start-up was not actually planned. Because while Kocaalan has previously worked in the travel agency, his girlfriend was a hairdresser. However, the two shared their passion for sneakers. "When Corona came and the travel agency and hairdresser were closed, we thought about how to continue," says the 28-year-old. The couple saw the situation as an opportunity to try something new – and to turn their hobby into a career. Until then, the two had only "pimped" their own shoes. Because it was well received, friends of the couple wanted such shoes.

It's not easy. Kocaalan and Klinger use different techniques, sometimes they need a lot of time for the unique pieces. Klinger gets involved with a creative streak and draws true works of art on the shoes by hand. There are, for example, Adidas sneakers that are kept in a pop art style. Without further ado, Kevin Kocaalan taught himself how to sew on a large machine and how to use an air brush. Now, for example, the two of them sew different fabrics – for example from an original Louis Vuitton handbag – onto the shoes. They can now apply their own motifs to the shoes and decorate them with private pictures.

Start-Up: Couple has to try a lot before the techniques work

The couple had to try a lot before they got the techniques. This can be seen, for example, in one of their first shoes, which they made for themselves. They also have to be careful about the colors they apply to the shoes. "We need different colors for the sole than for the upper area," explains Kocaalan, after all the latter has to be more elastic so that it doesn't look wrinkled after a while - as is the case with his own shoe from the early days. With some of the techniques, they are currently the only ones in Germany, the two say.

Hundreds of euros for sneakers: hype comes from the USA

The hype about the chic sports shoes comes from the USA. A Nike shoe had recently caused a sensation there, which was devilishly decorated by sneaker designers together with a rapper and to which a drop of blood is said to have been added, as reported by CNN, for example.

The Bockum-Höveler do not want to offer such macabre effects. Rather, they want to score points with the diversity and uniqueness of their shoes. The fact that the demand is high is shown by who is already wearing their shoes, rappers and actors from all over Germany are there. "We now have many partnerships," says Kristina Klinger. The main thing for the celebrities is to achieve reach and advertise to a wider audience.

Decorating sometimes takes more than 20 hours

Meanwhile, on their own Instagram, TikTok and Facebook channels, they provide their followers with insights into the complex production of the shoes. There are often many hours of work in a single sneaker, sometimes even more than 20 hours - whereby there are two possibilities. Either have a completely new shoe designed or one of your own. The latter, for example, was commissioned by an athlete in the home workshop in the basement of Klinger and Kocaalan. The special feature: "The basketball shoe is decorated with Swarovski stones," says Kevin Kocaalan. The price for this: around 700 to 800 euros – which is due to the material on the one hand and the amount of work on the other.

Basically, the Bockum-Höveler also offer decorated shoes from 140 euros. Why do people spend so much money on a piece of clothing for their feet? "Sneakers are the new status symbol," says 26-year-old Kristina Klinger.

Will there be a showroom in Berlin at some point?

Where the journey of "Limited Kickz" will go is open. But it looks like things are going uphill for now. Klinger is currently combining work at the start-up with part-time work as a hairdresser. Should their business continue to grow rapidly, the couple have already found two additional potential employees - within the family. Both are artists.

Kocaalan and Klinger definitely don't want mass production. Your shoe creations should remain unique. They are currently dreaming of a showroom, says Kocaalan. They don't think that would make sense in Hamm, but rather in Berlin. In addition, the designers plan to offer boxes in the future that will not only contain shoes, but also clothing that they have created themselves. "So that shopping becomes an experience," says Klinger. Her online shop, on the other hand, is to be opened shortly so that everyone can wear real eye-catchers as shoes in the future.