Meet the student who’s customized trainers for 50 Cent, Rick Ross and Jason Derulo
He’s got over a million followers and was featured in Forbes’ top 15 Instagram influencers
From Highsnobiety to Business Insider, Hypefresh Magazine to Forbes. Steven Vasilev, a second year studying Business Management at the University of York, has been featured in some of the world’s most exclusive publications and has sold his own customised trainers to some of our favourite celebrities.
Last year, The Tab spoke to him about his clothing brand and streetwear promotion company, ‘FRE Official’, which at the time had gained over 200,000 Instagram followers. Today, Steven owns over 21 Instagram accounts with a traction of one million followers, allowing him to reach over 25 million people weekly. And you thought you were busy.
In order to get some idea as to how all of this has happened for Steven in little less than a year, we caught up with him to find out how.
Hi Steven, how’s it going? What have you been doing this summer? What plans do you have for the rest of summer?
All is going good, I have been travelling around. Just spent a month in the Philippines, planning a Europe road trip and some US pop-up stores.
So… let’s talk about this past year. Last time we spoke to you, you had a total of 200,000 Instagram followers. How many do you have now? What new accounts have you set up?
So, a lot has changed since the last Tab feature. We are currently on over 1 million followers and reaching over 25 million people weekly, and still growing. It’s been a whole lot of work this year, with also managing the degree, but everything is going to plan.
What about your degree? Do you aim to see it through until the end?
Yes for sure, my mum would literally disown me if I didn’t finish my degree, the older generation don’t fully understand the social media generation and the power of social media for marketing.
How much time do you spend in York these days?
It varies, the time I spend in York depends on whenever I have lectures, seminars and exams. I literally do my university duties then drive back to London to manage the business. I’m better off staying in a AirBnB as I hardly use the house in York.
What are your most recent successes?
Our biggest recent success was that our company was featured on Forbes, who also included me in the top 15 Instagram influencer list. Being featured on Forbes has been a life goal for me and to get two features at such an early stage is huge.
What is FREofficial and FREcustoms?
FREofficial is where we started, it was the first blog i created. From then I own around 21 Instagram accounts for many different fashion niches such as FREkickz for footwear. This element of our brand is the promotional network where we promote our clothing and custom sneakers.
FREcustoms our custom footwear branch. It has been super successful, our first custom went extremely viral reaching over 50 million people and was featured in a ton of reputable publishers
Where did you get your inspiration for FREcustoms?
Our target market. We had an audience of people interested in footwear, we could not beat Adidas or Nike on sales but we could give a unique twist on their products. The main reason FREcustoms came to life was the contacts I had made over the years of running these blogs.
Do you make the trainers yourself? What sort of prices do your trainers sell from?
The trainers are all made by our team of expert sneaker customisers and painters. Prices start at around £170 for our general release products and can cost anywhere from £1000- £10,000+ for 1/1 depending on the base shoe and what the person would like on them.
How do you manage your business while keeping up with university?
Two ways. First, there is good time management. This is essential in every business, and even university so loads of sacrifices have to be made. Time is everything. Second is through having a great team. My business partners are very fluid guys who I can rely on. When I’m busy they take over and vice versa- we help each other out. On top of that we have over 17 employees working for us so that does take a ton of pressure off. When I started around five years ago, I would do every task myself which really was not fun.
Who have you sold to? Who would be your dream customer?
We have sold to a bunch of people including Chris Brown, Jason Derulo, Rick Ross and 50 Cent. We really could not believe the demand we have had. We sold some pairs of our Flowerbomb AF-1 to a Nike store manager who bought eight pairs for his employees which is very crazy. The producer from the Steve Harvey show bought some pairs. We are currently working with a lot of prominent rappers and celebrities on 1/1 pieces. As for dream customers it would have to be Kanye, as he is the most influential figure of the fashion scene.
Where do you see yourself in another year’s time? Do you have anything exciting planned?
I hope that our business will just get bigger and better, we are always adapting and expanding into new sectors. For example we recently launched a luxury item customization service which is growing fast.