Guillaume Philibert was 19 when he started Filling Pieces.
A student of architecture, he was listening to a lot of Pharrell and Kanye West rapping about designer labels. Philibert couldn’t afford the pieces at the time so he set out to create something in line with his wallet but also his interests in design and DJing — something he still does.
The brand asserted itself in the market with high-end footwear and one and a half years ago got into ready-to-wear presenting a minimalist line of well-constructed pieces — think funnel neck puffers and gaberdine trenches with a punch of colorblocking in the back paneling. Now, at nearly 10, Philibert’s line is ready for retail with the planned opening of Filling Pieces’ first flagship in Amsterdam in the fourth quarter of this year. That’s expected to be the start of a number of branded doors rolling out in key markets over the next few years.
“In the past couple years, I personally really found out how to run a business,” Philibert said. “So my background in design gave me the ability to design products, but I learned so much more about how to build a brand and how to build a company, so we spent the last couple of years building a foundation.”
To that end, the business has mostly concentrated on building up its wholesale accounts, which make up about 65 percent of overall revenue, with about 300 retail partners that include Net-a-porter, Barneys New York, Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman. Roughly six years ago, the company then turned to building out its online shop infrastructure and now its time to act on the idea of a store Philibert said he’s had on his mind for some time. He looks at retail from an opportunistic perspective.
“I don’t believe it’s [retail] dead. I just believe that the retailers need to change their mentality and also their ambition,” he said. “If you look, for example, at Kith or you look at retailers like let’s say Matchesfashion or Browns, these retailers know exactly what to do to please and entertain their consumers and these are the retailers that are doing really well.”
While Filling Pieces’ retail partners have a range from the label, their assortment doesn’t tell the whole story and that’s where the need for flagships first began, especially now with the buildout of ready-to-wear and plans to expand into bags and small accessories, Philibert said.
The Amsterdam store will include a food and beverage component, plus a customization bar that will allow for initials to be placed for free on the tongue or sole of a Filling Pieces pair of shoes. Philibert, staying true to his love for music, will also have a musical element and will sync with friends of the brand for a separate concept space in the store where other labels can pop in.
“This mix between art, music and fashion can all mix in this flagship experience,” Philibert said.
The plan would be to open additional Filling Pieces stores in London and New York once Amsterdam is off the ground.
The company is also teaming with Dutch ready-to-wear brand Daily Paper to create smaller flagship stores within the doors of other retailers, totaling around 10 locations that will begin rolling out this year.
“We call them more like satellite stores because the idea is that they’re permanently in the location,” Philibert said. “I feel strongly that the interior of a store should change every three to four seasons…. These consumers are very spoiled by having newness every week, every day on their phone. So if you want to entertain people in the right way, you need to be able to change the interior…. I really believe in being smart, creating a flexible interior you can change after a few seasons.”
E-commerce, as with all companies, will continue to be refined and improved upon to better tell the story of Filling Pieces.
The business now totals around 60 people, with four in Portugal, where the company produces its shoes and clothing.
Philibert, about three years ago, brought on a partner that had previously served as a consultant in a bid to bolster the business. There have been hires on the logistics and finance end since then. It’s only more recently with the team in place, Philibert said the company is now considering outside investors that could help boost the marketing spend and provider greater financial backing to “really get the full potential out of the brand.”
It’s an opportune time now to be building out the assortment as the more recent raft of fashion streetwear brands that gained ground selling a mix of hoodies and T-shirts now pivot to a more tailored state of mind as their consumer base becomes more discerning.
“Upscale luxury will have a big return. I already see that a little bit in pricing where people are now paying very big money for higher end product with a streetwear aesthetic,” Philibert said. “But, to be honest, when you say streetwear, and you’re talking about brands printing on a Gildan T-shirt [versus] having a Mike Amiri T-shirt, there’s a really big difference. So people are more conscious. I really believe this whole Virgil Abloh, Off-White, Louis Vuitton and Mike Amiri growing in terms of size, and then the lower end will take a little bit more of a hit.”
Now, it’s a matter of keeping Filling Pieces on the right track and focused on consistency.
Ten years ago, Philibert built a brand on the idea of making beautifully designed footwear accessibly priced and also speaking to a new generation of consumer hailing inclusivity from the brands they shop, rather than the idea of having to climb a fortress just to buy a small leather good. He’s counting on the openness of the brand to get the business to its next level.
“It sounds really weird, but there’s a lot of brands that want to be cool,” Philibert said. “There’s so many brands on a fashion level, they’re just too cool to do this or too cool to do that. I’d rather be seen as the nice kid rather than the cool kid that’s an asshole. As long as people want you to win, they will always support you.”