Kustom Kate is a new designer putting San Antonio soul on soles

San Antonio has a new name in the shoe customization game. Katelynn Orosco stepped foot into the male-dominated realm of shoe reworks and paintings in May 2021. With boxes of shoes lined up, Spurs designs on deck, and a blooming clientele base, she’s not just squeaking by — Orosco is a new source for sneakerheads wanting to a freshen up their footwear. 

Orosco, 27, is a self-taught artist. She says her mom, Lori Apaez, first noticed her penchant for painting, but any projects she worked on were solely for school or leisure. After a decade working in childcare, Apaez didn’t expect to be surrounded by boxes of unpainted shoes and shipping out pairs across the nation so soon after leaving her daycare job. Orosco says with a push from her mom and an added layer of encouragement from husband Krisitian — who sensed she was getting burnt out in her previous jobs — she went from caring for kids to painting kicks. 

Known as Kustom Kate in the shoe sphere, the artist says her designs started as tributes to loved ones, football teams like the Dallas Cowboys, and kid-friendly custom Vans. After nearly a year of working on shoes, she received her first Spurs-inspired commission, a pair of Fiesta color-blocked Jordan 1s. When she unveiled them on Sunday, January 23, it attracted a new wave of attention  —  and clients. Along with prompting an upswing in social media traffic, the shoes were highlighted during a broadcast of a recent Spurs game. 

Now, she has even more Spurs designs in the works. As we chatted inside her makeshift studio, set up in the dining room of her far West Side home, Orosco prepped a pair of Air Force Ones to be her latest Spurs flair pair. She carefully but confidently brushed strokes of turquoise paint around the toe cap, soaking the shoes in San Antonio style, as she chatted about capitalizing on her hidden talent.

Though she’s fairly new name in the industry (and one of the few female shoe artists) Orosco says she doesn’t find it daunting.

Kate Orosco, or Kustom Kate, is stepping into the San Antonio shoe customization game. 

Madalyn Mendoza, MySA.com

“If anything it’s an advantage,” she says, adding that the online groups have been supportive of her work. 

“I don’t know how other artists are, but for me, if I see you doing something, even if it’s the same as I’m doing, I’ll go out you check out your work,” Orosco adds. “I’ll share your work. I just feel like there’s enough [business] for every body.” 

Work is not something Orosco is light on she says as she sits in a corner of the room, surrounded by boxes of shoes waiting to be painted. She jokes that she’s never been able to create a pair for her husband or herself. Her customers are aware that the process could take up to three months.  

Kate Orosco, or Kustom Kate, is stepping into the San Antonio shoe customization game. 

Kate Orosco, or Kustom Kate, is stepping into the San Antonio shoe customization game. 

Courtesy, Kate Orosco

Along with painting shoes, the Orosco household is home to two little ones: her stepdaughter Kataleya and her 2-year-old son Kassius, both of whom keep her on her toes. 

She winces remembering the time her little boy confused her unsupervised paint set as something he could dabble in and added his own artistic flair to the shoes she had just finished. 

“I wanted to cry,” she says, cracking a slight smile now that the crisis is behind her. 

“It is really hard to juggle being a mom and trying to do this,” she adds. “That’s my biggest struggle. It’s very time-consuming, especially now that I’ve had an influx [of work]. My son isn’t in daycare so it’s just me and him at home all day. There is no method to the madness. I just do what I can when I can.”

And she does get it all done. Shortly after our visit, Orosco shared the shoes that sat at the center of our conversation on her Instagram page. The end result was exactly as how she described it: an almost metallic trifecta of Fiesta colors covering the shoe with a small Spurs logo on the heel. Orosco also dyed the interior of the footwear pink. 

On top of the more than 40 hours a week that Orosco devotes to her craft, she spends her downtime marketing her work on social media and coordinating orders and requests online. Though at times overwhelmed, Orosco says the support she’s received from local customers who have welcomed her to the industry and new customers is bolstering her confidence to continue painting and growing her business. One of her plans for her Kustom Kate business is to eventually offer restoration services.

“I really don’t know what I did to deserve such great people,” she says. “I don’t mean just my husband, my friends, and family, just all the people that follow me on social media. My husband and I were so blown away [by the support]. It’s just really nice to see people rooting for you.” 

Orosco’s shoe commissions range from $150 to $500 (cost of shoe not included). She’s most active for requests on Instagram and offers shipping throughout the U.S. In an effort to expand her network outside of Texas, she offers $50 for customers who are the first in their respective states to order a pair. 


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