The Modefabriek Musts are our chance to keep you updated on the latest inspiring developments within the fashion community. This week’s Modefabriek Must is the documentary ‘Bridging the Gap: 10 Years of Filling Pieces’. Looking back on the rise and challenges of Amsterdam fashion brand Filling Pieces, and its driving force: Guillaume Philibert Chin.
By now, the genesis of Filling Pieces is all but common knowledge. Guillaume Philibert Chin spots a gap between the pricey designer sneakers and the ‘normal’ sporty incarnations, and sets out to fill it. Filling Pieces was to be an inclusive brand for a broad target group, for young people with a passion for fashion who don’t (always) feel heard by the fashion world. And that’s exactly what it became, and more. Filling Pieces’ shoes now shine in some 200 stores around the world, the fashion brand has its own store in Amsterdam and a flagship store in the making, not to mention a luxury ready-to-wear collection.
The documentary ‘Bridging the Gap: 10 Years of Filling Pieces’ charts a decade of business and the associated highs and lows. Guillaume thinks that the major difference between Filling Pieces then and now is that they are now running the business more shrewdly, that they have gained a better understanding of who they are as a brand, and how they need to target their customers. The budget has grown, and therefore so have the investments. Chatting to Guillaume on the phone, he says there are actually lots of similarities with how they started. The mission – to bridge the gap between streetwear and high fashion – hasn’t changed. And neither has what the product needs to be: ‘a product made with the right intentions, for the long run’.
Guillaume Philibert Chin: ‘People buy us for the brand value. One of our brand values is ‘united by diversity
’. The folks behind Filling Pieces are from all walks of life, and we all like different things. That makes us unique and stronger. As a brand, you have a certain responsibility towards your target group, and that’s something that we truly connect with. We have our say about subjects that other fashion brands steer well clear of. Human rights, the climate, mental health; we want to be the brand that actually gets discussions going and helps bring about change’.
Filling Pieces is likeable. The brand and its owner have an undeniable likeability factor, and that isn’t tarnished by the founder himself now leading a highly privileged life. So how do you preserve the connection with the target group, while keeping the likeability factor? Guillaume: ‘I still want to be the guy who’s at the parties, who knows where the target group hangs out, and what lights their fire. As the founder, I want to be close to the people, not a fashion brand that’s solely for the elite. I remember how that felt: only being able to go to a certain fashion event if you were from the industry. If you ask me, the Filling Pieces parties were the game changer. The Amsterdam fashion scene became more democratic; everyone could sign up, and was welcome. We want to be a brand that is accessible and humble. A brand that people want to be a part of, which makes them feel valued’.
Guillaume Philibert Chin: ‘Be nice, be humble. Nobody likes an asshole’.
The documentary chronicles the road to success, with the inevitable bumps along the way. ‘We had our moments, and we also discuss them in the film. As with everything, things can be rougher behind the scenes. At one point, we had a certain shoe developed. The sample was up to scratch, but the final product was anything but. We had to recall 13,000 shoes, and to make things worse, we’d just started working with new retailers. It was a massive blow, both financially and image wise. This was also when we decided that we’d do all it took to carry on. ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’, explains Guillaume.
He continues: ‘We also had our share of challenges at a personal level, which we also show. What we really want to communicate with the film is: there is another way. We want to tell the kids that there’s not only one road to success. I think that success is the coming together of ideas and people. My message is also that you have to be business minded, and that means making choices and disappointing people. But: always be kind, and never put friendships on the line. Be nice. Be humble. Nobody likes an asshole. Also not when it comes to business’.
The documentary ‘Bridging the Gap: 10 Years of Filling Pieces’ is coproduced by Filling Pieces and Vice. Watch the film here.
Written by Marjolein Stormezand in collaboration with Modefabriek.