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Chesterfield designer puts positive messages in his high-end kicks

RICHMOND, Va. -- One quick look inside Michael Duke's closet and you'll quickly realize the Chesterfield man is a sneaker aficionado. Dozens of boxes with thousands of dollars worth of brand names shoes in them -- from Balenciaga Triple S’s ($975 a pair) to Christian Louboutin’s ($1,100).

While he could choose to wear one of his NIKE Air Foamposites or a pair of Adidas Yeezy Boost 700, his favorite shoes are the ones that you haven't heard of, at least yet.

They're called Smooth Luxury Shoes, and they're his own brand.

"I wanted to make something that was very high fashion, that was affordable," Duke said.

With the help of a factory abroad, Duke, the CEO of Smoothluxuryshoes, decided to go into business for himself back in April. His plan was to design high-end kicks with an economic twist.

His shoes sell at a fraction of the price of the Gucci and Louis brands without -- according to him -- compromising quality.

"These shoes are made in Italy, handcrafted, 100 percent Italian leather and suede,” he said pointing to a high-top shoe on his desk.

He currently sells two pairs of men's shoes and two pairs of women's shoes online. Customers receive their orders within two weeks, he said. Duke also writes each customer a thank you email and leaves an inspirational message inside the shoes.

One reads: When you feel like quitting, think about why you started.

Another reads: Be somebody nobody thought you could be.

"Every time you lace it up, you are going to see that," he said about the positive message.

At $180 a pair, Duke said his shoes are worth the price.

"My materials are far superior," he said. "Once people give me a shot and see what I'm selling, I think it'll be easier for them to make a purchase."

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