Chris “Chrisco” Hill entered the shoe industry by selling custom painted sneakers in his dorm room at Iowa Central Community College.
The main reason his work gained momentum on the school’s Fort Dodge campus was because it served as a traveling billboard for his work. Hill, a sports fanatic, customized his shoes, usually a white Nike Air Force One, to match his jersey collection, a look others wanted to replicate.
“I had orders every week for custom stuff because we had a lot of people there who weren’t from Iowa,” Hill said, noting the diversity of the campus. “A lot of people from the east coast who came to play football or if their grades weren’t good enough in Iowa or Iowa State, they went to Iowa Central.”
It would take more than a decade of trial and error, dead end jobs and several moves across the country before Hill got his first chance as an industrial designer in 2012. He worked at ID Workshop. in Portland, Oregon, followed by successful stints at Adidas and Reebok.
“At that time in my life, I never thought I would design shoes, let alone for celebrities let alone traveling the world,” said Hill, who has worked with rappers Cam’ron and Kendrick Lamar, NBA players. Derrick Rose, Damian Lillard and other notable people.
Hill’s work has made him a cult figure in the sneaker community, which is no small feat for the son of a minister and who hails from small town western Iowa, who isn’t exactly known for its crowd of sneaker enthusiasts.
His family moved to Iowa when he was about three and spent time in Lake City and Lohrville, two towns of less than 2,000 residents in Calhoun County. His love of sneakers comes from his hip-hop fan and his love for watching the kicks of his favorite professional athletes.
“I was like, ‘Dude, I want to be able to create this stuff,’” Hill said. “I never thought I would. I thought that was such a huge pipe dream, being a kid and living in the Midwest and especially Iowa of all places, there’s no way that would happen.
Sometimes dreams come true.
Hill spent nearly a decade working for Reebok, where he led memorable collaborations between the brand and some of hip-hop’s biggest stars, as well as with franchises such as “Ghostbusters”, “Jurrasic Park” , “Mighty Morphin ‘Power Rangers”, and more.
With his designs, Hill tries to distinguish between making his designs appealing to collectors but also to the more general consumer who is not obsessed with sneakers and release dates.
“I want to create something that sneakerheads really want to wear – and I’m one of those people too,” Hill said, referring to his “Minions” and “Tom & Jerry” designs. “I try to bring a bit of streetwear flair to any of this stuff so it’s not too childish.
Hill recently finished his run at Reebok and launched Chrisco Designs in September.
The name Chrisco Designs derives from his time at what was then Southern Cal High School in Lake City. Before making custom shoes, Hill screen printed T-shirts with his designs and had to come up with a name for his business.
“I came up with Chrisco, which meant ‘Chris’ Company’ and that was it,” Hill said. “I thought that was the dumbest thing ever and I was like, ‘I’m just going to change it when I’m older or something. “”
Unfortunately for the high school version of Hill, the name Chrisco stuck.
With Chrisco Designs, Hill aims to engage clients of all sizes to help them share their identity every step of the way in the design process, from history, concept development, refinement, renderings, tech packs, color and the materials.
Depending on the scope of the project (a single shoe versus an entire collection, for example), Hill spends 50 to 300 hours creating his designs.
“I’ve probably spent a lot more time than most people, I think because the way my brain works is if something isn’t perfect I’m not happy with it,” said Hill.
This perfectionism and great attention to detail is part of why Hill’s work stands out so much in sneaker circles. With his work on the “Power Rangers” collection, for example, there is a sneaker dedicated to the original five rangers and one for the Megazord, a giant robot formed by combining each ranger’s Dinozord. If a collector acquires these six sneakers and their boxes, they can craft a 3ft 5in Megazord with Power Sword.
Hill is not sure where he directly draws his inspiration from to create, but his work is often an amalgamation of personal interests.
“There was just something in me that wanted to create stuff,” he said. “I was into comics or toys or sports – shoes, more specifically sports – that I think that stuff was so cool, it made me want to create cool stuff too.”
Thanks to his work, he was able to meet a who’s who of celebrities and athletes; What he liked most about it, however, were the places his career has taken him. He’s been to London, Milan, Rome, Seoul and more, his work footing the bill.
“I was able to see the Sistine Chapel because of my work. You know? I got to see the Colosseum because of it, which is insane, ”he said. “Yeah, this stuff is amazing. Like I said, it’s literally like a dream job.
by Ty Rushing