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Minding the Gap: Guillame Philibert of Filling Pieces Interview
There are a lot of preconceptions that come to mind when discussing the topic of sneakers. The conversation will surely start with a fair point of sneakers’ relationship with sports activities. The exchange may then head in a new direction involving the wearing of sneakers in a casual setting and the repurposing of these so-called “trainers.” After all, who said that only basketball players get to wear basketball sneakers? Finally, the debate may finally find it’s way to the acknowledgement that high-end brands incorporate the sneaker into their lines and have evolved the modern notion of what a sneaker is. And so, in a positive way, sneakers are literally not they used to be. Enter Filling Pieces.
Dutch footwear brand Filling Pieces strives to fill the gap between the high-class and the commonplace. Founder Guillaume Philibert took a little time to talk to us about the concept behind Filling Pieces, it's SS13 collection, and the brand’s international inspirations.
William Yu: Can you describe your position at Filling Pieces?
FP: My name is Guillaume Philibert, and I’m the creative director within Filling Pieces
W: What was the concept in creating Filling Pieces?
FP: I started Filling Pieces because I was looking for a particular product that wasn’t available for me. I was buying a lot of sneakers and athletic inspired shoes, simply because they were very comfortable and affordable. In the mean time, I also was very interested in the more high-end trainers like Lanvin, Common Projects, Dior and such. Working in a clothing shop, didn’t make me able to buy the more high end shoes, and I became tired of all the bright colored Nikes and other more streetwear inspired shoes. So I was looking for a product that was between those styles, and I couldn’t find it.
After a long search, I understood that there was a big gap between these two very styles.. not only in price but also in material use, quality and design. I didn’t understand why there weren’t brands that would fit in between and I wanted to make a product that would fit the gap between these 2 styles, and aiming to bridge. That’s how I came up with the name and concept.
W: How do you define Haute Couture and Street Couture?
FP: They are very, very different from each other, but in the mean time.. the economic crisis and internet makes these two styles come closer and closer.
Streetwear could be defined within several levels, and the same for haute couture. You will always have the haute couture Chanel, Dior, etc labels.. which will always be this very haute couture fashion houses.. but they also [are] starting to have a more streetwear or lets say ‘ hybrid urban’ side. Chanel is doing trainers... even runners, so that makes the brand also more ‘street’.
In the mean time, streetwear brands are doing fashion shows, and they might be very street inspired but they are looking for quality, designs and fabrics.. which refers to the haute couture side.
It’s not like before [when] you would wear a Tom Ford suit with expensive formal shoes, not you are able to wear it with vans, converse or other nice and clean trainers.. so both worlds come very close.
Kenzo and Givenchy are currently the biggest examples of 2 worlds (haute and street) coming together.
W: How does Filling Pieces accomplish its mission?
FP: We are trying to accomplish our mission by designing, producing and selling shoes with an affordable price that’s in between the 2 styles. You would buy a hand-made trainer from a expensive label for about $350-500 USD and up. Now you have Filling Pieces, hand-made in Portugal for $150-190 USD, with same fabrics and finishing. But we still try to have the more athletic inspired details added to the shoes, because it should be in between the two styles.
W: What is the signature Filling Pieces shoe?
FP: The Filling Pieces Low Top is really our trademark model, and our signature details are the tongue, padded heel and all over bumper. The use of fine nubucks is also very what we do, and nice leathers. We try to mix our basic and more clean models, with new and different details and leathers.
W: What are brands that pair well with Filling Pieces products?
FP: I’m a big fan of simple clothes like uniqlo and COS etc, but I’m think the brands suits very well with some other great upcoming brands like Publish, Brooklyn We Go Hard, Daily Paper (Amsterdam label) , A.P.C. and for example ACNE. Of course we also like the Bodega clothes, and that’s also a good match.
W: The SS13 collection features exotic materials from around the world, why source these fabrics?
FP: Originally Filling Pieces is from Amsterdam. The label is inspired by the culture here, with most of the men wearing trainers and caring a lot about shoes. I was born and raised here, but my roots are from Surinam, South America. The SS13 collection is about exotic leathers and specials details, which refers to my origin in Surinam. Every pair of shoes is different, because it has its own piece of leather on it which is always different. The use of real python, salmon leather and ostrich skin makes it difficult to make all pairs look alike, but that’s also very cool so that every pair is unique.We shot the campaign/lookbook also in Surinam to give the whole collection a stronger and more genuine feel.
W: With your lookbook shot in Surinam, Filling Pieces is working with Care4Share to give back to the Surinam community. Why was it important to be connected to this organization?
FP: Surinam is not a very rich country, and being from there it made me even more aware from the fact that I’m very lucky I had to chance to grow up in the western world. So with shooting the collection in Surinam, and taking something from the country, I wanted to reach back to the locals.
Together with Care4Share we had the chance to meet some of the local homeless children and hook them up with some decent shoes. It was also important for me to show the young kids that everything in life is possible to reach, as long as you work hard and you try to stand out from others.
W: How does the brand’s Dutch background influence the products?
FP: The footwear culture in the Netherlands is very strange, because so much care about shoes and not very [much] about the rest of the outfit. They don’t care what brand or price their clothes are, but the shoes must be cool, expensive and special.
So there is a big market here in The Netherlands for footwear brands that are more ‘high-end’ .
The sneaker culture is also very big in the Netherlands so they also buy the trainers that are between high end and street.
W: Who should be wearing Filling Pieces?
FP: Filling Pieces is for everyone who feels like buying and wearing the shoes. I think it’s important to make it affordable and interesting for most of the people, but in the meantime make it exclusive and special so people will really look and search for the trainers.
W: Filling Pieces has had some great collaborations with other brands in the past, what do you look for in a collaborator?
FP: Thank you! We are trying to work with brands/companies that we can relate to, and join forces to make a special product that will amaze a lot of people. We did the second collaboration with Kith and Ronnie Fieg, which is very premium but still very affordable for a lot of people.
So we try to work with brands from our level and up, so we can work hard to make the collaborations cooler and more special every time.
Hopefully soon a Bodega x Filling Pieces collab! [I’ve been] a fan for a long time.
Many thanks to Guilliaume, Jude and the entire Filling Pieces family for granting us the time to talk to us and show us the upcoming collection. We here at Bodega couldn’t be more excited to show the great things that are coming from Filling Pieces.
Images: Filling Pieces
Previous: Fred Perry F/W '16 Editorial
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