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Start a sneaker empire

Thomas Theodore speaks to Guillaume Philibert, the guy who snuck under the radar.

Funny story: In 2010, I was working in a sneaker store in Berlin. One night at a party, a Dutch 20-year-old came up to me and told me he had started a shoe company called Filling Pieces. He took my details and sent me messages every week trying to get us to stock his shoes. He didn’t have much cash or a plan, but he obviously had incredible drive and hustle, because seven years on, his shoes are worn by Zayn Malik, Sergio Ramos, P Diddy and more. I got in touch with him to find out what happened. 

You decided to start a sneaker brand in a crowded market dominated by Nike and adidas. Why?

The idea came while I was an architecture student. I’d saved up to buy a pair of Dior Homme trainers. They were expensive for a student, but I felt like the man wearing them – until I went into the city and ran into people wearing the same shoe! I decided that I was going to design my own affordable but still exclusive sneaker.

How did you set everything up? 

The design came from sketching a lot and asking friends for feedback. I completely lacked funding, experience and necessary business skills. But I started searching for manufacturers who could work with small quantities. I learned everything I know about design and production through trial and error. The brand got a lot of hype in the first couple of years, which meant I could really develop as a designer, and we could really develop as a brand.

What was the initial reaction like?

The first run I produced was 50 pairs of our low top. I sold them to friends and family, some had big followings on Facebook and Twitter, and that got the ball rolling and really triggered the hype.

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You often re-post famous people wearing Filling Pieces. Who are your top five of all time?

Gigi Hadid, Bella Hadid, The Weeknd, PartyNextDoor and Steph Curry.

Why do you think it’s so successful?

Initially, we were one of the first footwear brands in that price point to bridge the gap between high fashion and streetwear. But it was down to a lot of luck, too, and having the support of people who liked what we did and wanted to wear our shoes. We were lucky to start at a time when the blurred lines between streetwear and high fashion was becoming topical, and now our level of growth allows us to try new techniques, create our own soles, and use the craziest materials, which helps us stay ahead of the competition.

How does architecture relate to footwear design?

I still don’t consider myself a designer. Design for me is just a platform you have to create beautiful handcrafted products. My architectural training gave me the design principles and skills, alongside an engineering based approach that laid the foundation for Filling Pieces. I think that architecture is one of the highest levels of art that man is capable of – it’s the perfect blend of form, function, emotion, detail, message and technical innovation. 

 

Lead Photo Iris Duvekot

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