Filling Pieces has gone from designing one shoe borne out of a lack of anything unique on the market to a footwear goliath worn all over the Europe and beyond. Guillaume Philibert is the man behind the shoes who established Filling Pieces in 2009 and is now one of the best shoe designers in the past few years. It’s short rise to footwear fame is down to his commitment and passion for high-quality footwear that’s affordable for everyone. We spoke to Guillaume about the biggest challenges when designing a shoe, his inspiration and what’s next for Filling Pieces.
Guillaume, where did the concept for Filling Pieces come from?
As a teenager, I worked in retail to save up for a pair of Dior Homme trainers. I thought I was the don wearing them. That was until I went into Amsterdam and saw that everybody had them. It was at that moment that I decided to create an affordable, yet still exclusive luxury shoe.
How hard was it getting Filling Pieces off the ground and establishing the company?
It was difficult. Having an idea, sketching it out and creating the first prototypes of what would become the Low Top was the initial challenge. Then creating a brand identity and image was a difficult step, too. The growth from a 50-retailer brand to 200-retailer brand is quite a jump. You eventually get to a point where you can’t do everything yourself, where you’re not just building a brand but the company behind it – hiring the right people and finding an office.
We’re fortunate to be at a point now where we’re stocked by the best retailers, and know we just have to focus on increasing our brand awareness, driving sales and potentially opening our own retail locations.
How does Filling Pieces bridge the gap between streetwear and high-end fashion?
We bridge on multiple levels. Firstly, the product blends the luxury materials of the high-fashion world with the simple aesthetic and comfort that appeals to streetwear fans. As mentioned before, we were the first to create this segment that had high-quality, yet was affordable whilst still being exclusive. We also create product that appeals to both high-end and streetwear consumers – our product connects people from many different backgrounds.
What are the biggest challenges you face when designing a shoe?
After designing shoes for seven years, the most important thing is challenging ourselves to innovate and create newness. Simple designs often sell better, but as a designer you always want to create novel designs that could be seen as too contemporary. The most difficult part is designing product that strikes a balance between doing well commercially whilst still being innovative.
Where do you take inspiration from design-wise?
It could be anything from travelling to a different country, to visiting an art gallery or museum, to just simply thinking about problems in the industry or the world and trying to solve them.
How do you stay competitive/stand out in a notoriously competitive market?
We created our own segment where we don’t compete with high fashion or sports footwear brands, so we have a bit of a head start. Innovation is one of our core values – we’re pushing contemporary footwear forward as a result. We can explore new construction techniques, the application of different materials and design and produce our own soles as we have our own production facilities. That helps.
How difficult is it to have consistently original/innovative ideas for new silhouettes?
It’s very important as that’s what keeps you alive as a brand. The tough part is that sometimes when you design something unique and spend a lot of time on it, it doesn’t get the sales, respect or recognition you think it deserves. It’s all about consistently designing new things.
How important is selecting the right materials for a shoe?
It’s one of the most important things as you can create a great shoe, with great design lines, but the materials are hit or miss. It’s something that can make or break a shoe. Also, there’s a balance between using materials that are wearable or sell, and the danger of becoming a bit boring. It’s all about finding the right innovation within fabrics – I think Stone Island is one of the greatest within the industry doing that.
What direction do you see Filling Pieces heading in the next few years?
We’ll stay true to our concepts, products and brand aesthetic we’ve created and expand into new territories like clothing and accessories. We want to be more connected to our culture and audience by throwing more parties, events and creating an experience that is more than just product.
What is your advice to any would-be footwear designers who are starting out in the industry?
Be unique. Carve your own niche. Be a leader not a follower.
See our latest Filling Pieces here.