Venice’s famous Art Biennale takes place every two years, and features expositions by the world’s hottest contemporary artists; it’s so famous that it’s also known as the “Art Olympics.” The 2019 Biennale’s opening weekend, which took place May 11 to 12, drew a chic international crowd, attracting everyone from artists to curators, art critics to enthusiasts, all of whom filled the streets of Venice with style.
Intermittent downpours drove Biennale-goers indoors throughout the weekend, but visitors to the festival’s Arsenal venue sported sleek rainwear, belt bags, fanny packs and over-the-top layers.
From the trendy streets of Stoneybatter to the classic teatime haunts near Drury Street, Dublin residents brightened up the streets with style.
During teatime, the Irish capital’s locals sported sleek, rain-ready wardrobes; they mixed their afternoon tea hour with shopping and a stroll, showing off the city’s “preppy-meets-streetwear” look. Bright trenches and floral prints ruled as Dubliners opted for statement pieces, adding feminine touches to their edgy outfits.
A Filling Pieces shop-in-shop at De Bijenkorf in Amsterdam.
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.”
Looks from the Filling Pieces spring 2019 ready-to-wear collection. Courtesy Photo
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.
The Filling Pieces Paris showroom. Courtesy Photo
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.”
Pierre Davis, Andrew Andrade, Corey T. Stokes and Sara Gourlay in Los Angeles at the Adidas Seams event.
LOS ANGELES — Soccer jerseys in suiting, as eveningwear and patched into new life forms.
Adidas charged four stylists and designers, each hailing from different backgrounds in fashion, to put their spin on Major League Soccer’s jerseys. The results bore out in an interesting display of fashion that marched down the runway Thursday evening at City Market South in downtown Los Angeles.
Adidas’ Seams event was the latest in a long-running partnership between the brand and Major League Soccer that was most recently extended to 2024, with the sportswear firm providing the league’s 24 teams with uniforms, footwear and training gear, among other things.
“The idea was to launch the 2019 MLS jerseys in a new creative way,” said Jennifer Valentine, senior director of soccer at Adidas. “We want to celebrate the culture of each individual city that the jerseys represent.”
The idea was to pull together individuals in fashion as deemed by the brand to be creative and authentic with varying ties to streetwear, Valentine said.
Pierre Davis, founder of the gender-neutral brand No Sesso, turned to something more formal through the use of patchworking and hardware to create trains and volume for dresses.
“My idea was to take athletic wear and turn it into more of an eveningwear situation,” Davis said. “It’s football jersey gowns. It’s really fun and playful.”
Corey Stokes went a similar route in creating something more formal given his background in tailoring and suiting.
“I wanted to play with the juxtaposition of taking a sportswear piece like a jersey in suiting and tailoring. So, in most of my looks, there’s some form of tailoring in it, playing on this fantasy of merging these two worlds together,” Stokes said. “Some of them are a bit practical in their looks and then some of them are fantasy.”
Most of the stylists, as they chatted ahead of the runway presentation, expressed surprise in being tapped for the Adidas project.
“My first thought was ‘I don’t play soccer honestly,’” Stokes said when approached with the project. “But I am a fan of Adidas and the way they bring on smaller talent.”
Added Sara Gourlay of Frankie Collective, “It was just a surprise that Adidas is recognizing these creators and reimagining these jerseys. I think it’s so cool they’ve opened their arms and said ‘Dare to create.’ It’s really getting four diverse stylists and we’ve all brought something really different to the table.”
Gourlay’s Frankie Collective sells vintage and re-engineered garments and she took a similar approach to completely transforming the MLS jerseys, reworking them into cargo and track pants in an effort to hit home the jersey as the focal point of each outfit.
Brothers Andrew Andrade and Guillermo Andrade, of 424, worked together on their looks in what Andrew described as a nod to soccer culture and history.
“My brother, being a designer, and I’m a stylist, the way we operate, he designs for the most part and I put the looks together. That’s what we’ve been doing for a long time, so there was no reason not to do that with this project,” Andrew said.
The duo are self-taught when it comes to navigating the world of apparel and fashion, with Andrew bestowing accolades on his brother as someone he’s always looked up to. “He is my first example of a successful person in my life that I can remember, so he’s hugely impactful in my life,” he said.
His opening look was dramatic with a patchwork, capelike piece that also incorporated soccer netting, followed by a mix of casual and more formal looks Andrew said referenced football culture and its history in linking people.
“The first thing that I had on my mood board is a picture of the world because I believe that the game connects the world,” he said. “Before the Internet existed, the way I learned about culture, or a lot of cultures, is through football. I would meet people and when I knew where they were from, I would ask if they liked soccer and 95 percent of the time, they would say ‘yes.’ Even if I didn’t know their language, we developed a connection. So this is a big connection between football, my brother and fashion.”
LOS ANGELES — Madhappy’s going basic — but in the best kind of way.
The young direct-to-consumer brand, started in 2017, continues to move quickly to nab share and refine its voice in a competitive market. It entered the fray with its branded product tops and hoodies bearing the company’s signature stitch detailing. Now, it’s curated a more wearable offering for multiple occasions with a basics line named Classics by Madhappy launching Thursday. The 11 styles max out at 40 stockkeeping units in men’s, women’s and unisex sizing.
“We think that this will allow our consumers that want [the product] to be able to buy [it] more often,” said cofounder Peiman Raf. “We expect to keep these in stock and not be on a limited basis. We’ll add colorways a few times a year and then alongside that, we’ll continue to do our capsules and collaborations.”
The range includes French terry hoodies ($130), sweats ($100), women’s crewneck ($100) and T-shirts ($60). There are also combed cotton heavyweight sweats for $150 and crewneck retailing for $120.
It’s also a natural response to the increase in inquiries from shoppers who have asked about unbranded product.
“We’ve always been very obsessed about creating the best products possible and really soon after we launched, we felt like we had a good hoodie product and we kept iterating on that,” Raf said. “Recently, we’ve been releasing a few pieces that people have been asking, ‘Is this going to be available without any print on it?’ And so we made it our goal to develop a full basics line. It’s to give people the option to wear our product every day. Some of our stuff is works better on the weekends, but we want people to have the choice of wearing something to work or on the weekdays or to an event.”
How to appeal to the older consumer, since the core Madhappy shopper is 18 to 30, is also something to be tackled with more unbranded product, Raf’s brother and celebrity stylist Noah Raf said.
A look from the Madhappy classics line. Courtesy Photo
Classics by Madhappy follows the recent close of the company’s series seed, marking its first outside capital raise that will be funneled into digital advertising, pop-ups and new hires for the seven-person company. Investors in the round included founders from Sweetgreen, MeUndies founder Jonathan Shokrian, Rick Caruso’s son Justin Caruso, Thor Equities ceo Joseph Sitt, Amy Levin Klein, founder of College Fashionista, and Alfred Venture Partners.
“We wanted the right strategic partners to help make this a sustainable business down the road,” Noah Raf said.
The two brothers launched Madhappy, which recently opened headquarters in downtown’s Arts District, alongside Mason Spector and Joseph’s Sitt’s son Joshua.
As Madhappy expands its assortment, it’s also refining its voice and backend operations for the market.
A fully redesigned web site launches Friday, the most notable addition being the boost in content and a blog centered around mental health awareness and providing resources — a tenet the Madhappy brand is built on. The blog content will include interviews with celebrities, influencers and individuals the company collaborates with, posting one interview per week at least initially. That will be followed up later this year with the rollout of a podcast tackling similar topics.
The pop-up strategy that was heavily focused on creating full-on events anchored around the stores helped the brand gain traction quickly, with a total of seven now under the company’s belt in places such as Los Angeles, New York City, Aspen, Williamsburg and Miami. That remains a key part of the strategy, Raf said. He added the business plans to continue doing three to four pop-ups annually, with this year focused on large-scale launch parties around a store followed by additional events around mental health-related panels. Madhappy plans to have shops open in Los Angeles and New York by midspring, with Chicago; Austin, Texas, and other cities also being eyed.
Although the focus remains on direct-to-consumer, Madhappy is talking to a few retailers about wholesale distribution, although such deals would be “more about exposure,” Noah Raf said.
The company’s showroom and headquarters in downtown will also open up midyear every Friday to the public as a community space with different types of panels, dinners and other programming.
Sneakersnstuff founders Erik Fagerlind and Peter Jansson photographed in Stockholm.
LOS ANGELES — Surreal just about sums up the feeling for Sneakersnstuff cofounder Erik Fagerlind.
He recently reviewed a video tour shot in the soon-to-be-opened Sneakersnstuff store — beachfront property on the Venice Beach Boardwalk — the same year the brand turns 20.
“It’s mind-blowing to sit back and be like 20 years ago we started the store in a tiny space [in Stockholm] — in an area where nobody had a store,” he said. “So I was blown away when I got the video.”
Venice, which opens March 26 on the company’s actual birthday, perhaps might be the most ambitious in terms of the experiential for the Stockholm sneaker retailer, with two apartment units up top, plus a patio. Fagerlind and cofounder Peter Jansson are already mulling the potential in creating spaces where the VIP experience for a sneakerhead could very well be taken to the next level.
They were ushered around the greater Los Angeles area including Melrose and Fairfax Avenues (“It would feel we were jumping on somebody else’s wave if we were going there,” Fagerlind said). There was also Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice (“Nice if you like yoga and avocado sandwiches,” he noted). The Boardwalk is where it hit Fagerlind and team that that would be home.
And Venice is just the start of a number of major moves to be played this year. Sneakersnstuff in May will open the SNS Bar on the lower level of its existing New York store. It’s a nod to the clubs the founders used to frequent in the Meatpacking District when they visited Manhattan 20 years ago.
Asia represents another market Fagerlind and Jansson see potential in for more stores.
The company is also upping its game in the digital space with an app and web site redesign planned for this year. The app, Fagerlind said, will be built out in phases, with the first iteration streamlining the company’s raffle system for sneaker drops to make the sign-up process easier.
The sneaker retailer began with Stockholm before branching out to London, Paris, Berlin, New York and now Venice.
“We’ve been around for a while, but it took us a long time to understand and realize what we were doing was more fitted for big cities,” Fagerlind said. “Coming from Sweden, it’s not that easy [to open an international store]. You don’t just waltz over and open a store. There’s a lot of things you have to figure out in terms of brand politics. Competition is fierce all over the world. All these cities on our map, but we don’t want to do everything at once. I guess we could if we built a team around that. We could open up 20 stores in a heartbeat, but it wouldn’t be organic. We would lose control of who the ID of SNS is.”
The company, now numbering 210 workers, is expected to add another 75 by the end of this year. It’s projecting 2019 revenue of roughly $100 million, based on current exchange rates. It’s off slightly from last year’s growth, which reflected an 85 percent increase in revenue, but the focus this year is on building within the organization.
Sneakersnstuff later this year will add the SNS Bar under its New York store. Kate Glicksberg
“The first five years it was all fun and games. I was 22 when we founded the company,” Fagerlind said. “With that attitude of a 20-year-old, that’s where we started and we had a lot of fun. The first three to four years, everything was going great. We had a huge success. We met our budget and then we didn’t make a budget for the next few years, but eventually reality catches up and bills catch up. After four or five years we had to take a step back and reevaluate how to actually run a company.”
The two brought on strategic partners for the first time in 2011. Last year, in mid-June, private equity firm FSN Capital entered the picture. A holding company was established, which acquired shares in the company, with the Sneakersnstuff founders and management team then funneling most of the proceeds from that acquisition back into the new holding company.
“We have high ambitions when it comes to numbers, but it does not motivate us in the day-to-day,” Fagerlind said, declining to get into specific longer-term projections. “We love this product and what we do.”
Fagerlind and Jansson sit atop an interesting perch having 20 years in the business, responding to trends, changes in consumer behavior and what digital has done to shoppers and businesses.
“It’s funny how major trends or hype trends hit the same time all over the world in all the key cities,” Fagerlind said. “So the higher up a trend starts, it’s no longer local. All the hype trends are global instances. But on a local level, there are definitely trends. There’s a way to look in L.A. versus how to look in New York versus how to look in Paris. There is that look, but they all want Off-White Nikes. They all want Yeezys in these cities and that’s been an interesting find. No matter how different the cultures might be, or the people might be in a city, they come to the same sort of inspirations.”
Certainly, people traveling more and the world, in a sense, shrinking because of that has helped drive the near homogenization of some trends. It’s also algorithms, Fagerlind pointed out.
“The information spreads super fast,” he said. “You can tell by visiting countries where online penetration isn’t as foregone as other countries, because the local trends are still there or they stay longer. But where online penetration is big, it’s very uniform, almost like you see the same people wearing the same things. They just might twist it out with some local brand’s T-shirts or hoodies.”
The company’s since learned to be more in tune with its regional buys, improving from even just a few years ago. Knowing things such as how the Los Angeles market shows more interest in vulcanized soles, pressing upon the need for more Vans and Converse, whereas Timberlands in New York could do well in the winter when the same in Paris might not do at all.
Learning to trust the customer has been the ultimate lesson for the two.
“It’s a cliché thing to say, but trust the people is what you have to do,” Fagerlind said. “I mean, I could claim that I know New York because I’ve been to New York just as many times as home it feels like. But you never know New York as New Yorkers do, so you have to work with New Yorkers and trust them on what’s right. You can’t control it too hard.”