Filling Pieces x Mr Porter – Exclusive Interview

If you’re a trainer freak like I am you’ll be well aware of Filling Pieces by now. In fact, even if you’re not you’ll probably recognise the now iconic deign of this uber cool trainer brand from Amsterdam. Breaking into the saturated market of trainers is no easy feat. Going up against the giants of sportswear as well as the proliferation of designers making their own luxury trainers doesn’t leave much room for innovative newcomers like Guillaume Philibert. With an exclusive range for Mr Porter about to launch I sat down with Guillaume to get the scoop on where the brand came from, what we can expect from the Mr Porter collaboration and whether or not you really can wear trainers with a suit.
Can you start by telling me a bit about yourself – how did Filling Pieces come about?I started Filling Pieces when I was 19 years old. I was buying a lot of footwear, a lot of clothing as well but mostly footwear. I was working in a clothing shop while studying architecture. I couldn’t really afford all the high-end trainers that I loved, like Dior, Lanvin etc. Once in a while my mother would buy me a pair of designer trainers but I was mostly buying Nike, Adidas, Reebok, a lot of Puma. I was getting tired of athletic footwear and started to become more interested in high-end trainers and designer footwear. I remember saving up for three or four months to buy a pair of Dior sneakers in early 2009 when they were very hot. I remember I bought them on a Wednesday and then on Saturday or Sunday I was walking through the city of Amsterdam and I saw at least 15 to 20 people wearing the same shoes. I was missing the exclusivity that is supposed to come with buying a designer product. I figured out that there were a lot of kids like me that couldn’t afford high-end trainers but still wanted luxury shoes at an accessible price point. I was looking for brands that I could buy products from who offered exclusive yet affordable products in luxury materials, but I couldn’t find it. That’s when I started Filling Pieces.

What gives a certain pair of trainers its exclusivity?

It’s a mix of several things I think. Exclusivity depends a lot on availability of products, quantities in which they’re made and the price, which is largely dictated by the quality of the materials.

What I always appreciated about Filling Pieces is that the shape and silhouette was completely original. I find that a lot of designer trainers are based off existing sportswear designs which to me is completely inauthentic. Did you consciously set out to create a shoe that no-one had seen before?

Filling Pieces stands for the gap between high-end and streetwear, so it was always meant to be a mix of luxury details, stitching, colours, materials from the high-end with sportswear influences in the way the shoe is built and in the architecture of the shoe. For example the padded heel on the back is inspired by the Kanye West Louis Vuitton shoe but is also seen on old Yves Saint Laurent trainers. This gives the shoe a luxury feel but also the tongue of the shoe is strangely shaped and longer than normal. We do this because back in 2009 not a lot of people were wearing skinny jeans. When your pants are longer at the bottom you’re able to put your pants behind the tongue and then you can see the whole shoe. The strip on the front of our signature low top is a leather strap that makes the join with the rubber sole softer. Those are the three main elements of a Filing Pieces shoe.

You’re obviously a massive trainer fan. If you had to pick your top 5 trainers of all time, besides your own brand, what would you pick?

I say Jordan 1, definitely my first choice. I really like the Air Max 1, that’s a really strong shoe. Then in third place Puma States, that was a shoe that I bought a lot in the past. I still think that Converse is such a staple silhouette that nobody else can beat. Everyone tries to copy that shoe but no one comes close, so that is number four. Number five is I think a Jordan 3.

How often do you wear trainers by other brands?

A lot actually. Of the 7 days in a week I wear Filling Pieces for 2 or 3 of those days, the rest of the time it’s different brands.

Do you feel guilty if you wear a different brand?

(Laughs) Not really! I wouldn’t wear a competitor’s brand so I don’t feel guilty.

Do you see yourself more of a fashion brand than a sports brand?

We’re working on a project with Puma for next year and a lot of people ask me why I would work with another footwear brand. The answer is that as Filling Pieces we have the knowledge of luxury leathers and unique design but have no real knowledge of technical and athletic footwear. It’s about merging our knowledge of luxury with their knowledge of athletic wear.

Traditionally speaks brands like Filling Pieces eventually branch out into apparel – is that a path you’ll be following?

We’re actually working on a clothing collaboration with a Japanese brand of five pieces of apparel and two pairs of shoes. It’s a very small capsule collection to test if our fans are interested in clothing from us. Shoes and clothes are really very different things. I do believe that the clothing we have created really matches the style of the footwear. This is just a test but I believe there is clothing or at least more than just footwear in the future. There is a lot of untouched ground for us. A lot of shops and brands that we haven’t worked with yet but that we want to work with.

You’ve created a shoe inspired by Jackson Pollock. What other art forms do you draw inspiration from for design? You obviously have a background in architecture but are there other fields of art that go into the shoe design process?

It’s not specifically art but rather the fabrics and textures that I feel in clothing and also furniture. We once made a shoe out of a hammock and fabrics used for couches. It’s a mix of feelings and vibes that I experience that goes into each shoe. The technical part is always based in architecture. The Jackson Pollock thing was more like using a white shoe to express artistic intentions.

Are there any collaborations coming up that you’re able to talk about?

We have a few collaborations coming up for example one with Poggy, a fashion icon from Tokyo and Creative Director for United Arrow & Sons, one of the best stores in Tokyo. We have another collaboration with Ronnie Fieg from KITH on the RF-Mid. We’re doing the Black Friday thing so those are really the main things coming up for us this year. Also, there is the Mr Porter shoe that we’re very excited about. There are still a lot of stores and people that we want to collaborate with. I’d love to work with Nike one day or design a shoe with Raf Simons.

What was it that drew you to want to work with Mr Porter?

I’ve always admired Mr Porter not only because they have great brands but with Filling Pieces we want from the moment you buy the shoe to have an experience and I feel that Mr Porter is great at that. If you order something from Mr Porter it always feels like you’re getting a present when it arrives. There’s an eye for detail with Mr Porter and a lot of people try to copy that. It looks simple to have great packaging and customer service but it’s actually a lot of work and a lot of effort. If you look at the brand selection on the Mr Porter website you can buy the best of everything. If you need gym clothes you go to Mr Porter for the best looking gym clothes, the same for a party or a dinner. In terms of footwear they’re giving smaller brands like Filling Pieces a chance. It’s become a super sophisticated and high-end destination for online shoppers, but one that appeals to people that buy Nike as well as people who buy John Lobb shoes. We don’t want to be super commercial. What we’re doing is opening to a bigger target group but in a very sophisticated way – and that’s how Mr Porter works.

One last question, in the hopes that you can put this issue to bed – can you wear trainers with a suit?

YES! I do it all the time. It depends on the occasion I guess.

Do you own formal shoes? Brogues and things?

I have brogues and moccasins, I wear them on occasion. I enjoy waring my trainers 99% of the time but there are certain times when I wear dress shoes and I really enjoy wearing them. It’s the feeling of something other than a trainer. I have a pair of shoes made in Italy by a very nice brand from Antwerp. They’re not as comfortable as a pair of Nike or a pair of Filling Pieces but I enjoy the feeling that wearing them gives me because to be honest designing Filling Pieces and wearing them all week takes away the special feeling you have when you buy a new pair of shoes. Dress shoes are something else entirely. But it’s definitely OK to wear trainers with a suit, I think more people should do it. As long as they’re clean!



The Filling Pieces x Mr Porter shoes will be available from mid-november at Mr. Porter
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