At the beginning of the month we launched the first ever OPUMO Awards – a dedicated end-of-year-roundup that celebrates some of the biggest personalities and inspirations over the past 12 months. In the fifth of our seven exclusive interviews with our OPUMO 2017 award winners, we speak to Filling Pieces founder Guillaume Philibert about his life in sneakers, the future of the industry and what it means to be our most influential ‘Sneakerhead’ of 2017. The greatest compliment that you can pay Guillaume Philibert is that Filling Pieces, despite the number of sneakers out there, is radically different from every other footwear brand. It’s driven by a unique vision and a true passion for authentic and original design that all initially began in Guillaume's minds’ eye. Whilst studying architecture, Guillaume realised something revolutionary; that you couldn’t find sneakers that were both high concept and unique at a price point in between high-street and high-end. From that moment on he was inspired to start his own. The result was Filling Pieces, the missing link between high fashion and streetwear, which he founded in 2009. Guillaume launched his own design concepts, eventually introducing his fine Italian-made, thick-soled artistically-minimal sneakers into an oversaturated sneaker market and solidifying his name in the industry. Eight years later, multiple hyper modern hybrid sneakers down, countless collaborations complete and a brand new collection on its way, we spoke to Guillaume about where it all began, his favourite ever sneakers and what we can expect from the future of Filling Pieces.

What are your earliest sneaker memories?

Jordan I’s. My mother wouldn't buy them for me, so I started my first job just to get my hands on them.

What were the first pair of sneakers you fell in-love with?

Jordan I’s. But the very first pair I ever purchased were Air Jordan Breds. A strong design like the Air Jordan still sells well so I always feel like buying a pair when they release them again.

What releases were you obsessed with growing up?

After years of being in the footwear and fashion industry it’s hard to get excited by new releases. Although a lot of product drops every day, I probably got most excited about the Lebron Corks. That fabric in combination with such an innovative sole unit was very unique.

Was there a particular moment in your life that can be defined by a pair of sneakers?

I think the pair of Dior trainers I bought at the beginning of 2009. I had saved up money to buy a pair of all white crisp Dior sneakers. I felt super confident and strong in them. I thought I was super unique wearing them. But when I hit the city a few days after at the end of 2009 with my friends and I ran into at least 10 to 15 people wearing that very same sneaker. I was missing a trainer that was affordable, still very lux, high quality and exclusive. That was the point when I thought about designing my own sneaker, one that was affordable yet exclusive. They inspired me to design my own sneakers.
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What pair of sneakers defines your childhood?

Puma Mostro’s. I remember my mother bought me a pair and I was really into how the shoe was built with the combination of leather and elastic. It inspired the Filling Pieces x Puma shoe that launched last year.

What pair of sneakers define your teenage years?

Air Force 1’s. I used to wear them a lot and I remember customising mine with pieces of leather or paint. That shoe is the perfect canvas for anyone creative to work on. Even now, they’re a great understated sneaker.

What are the most important sneakers in your collection?

I actually just see shoes as products to use. I used to collect a bit but I quit that real quick when I figured out I wanted to wear them instead of box them up. I often get asked how many pairs of shoes I have. I've actually only got about 50 pairs at home, whilst I only wear maybe 8 of them. I'd rather just enjoy my shoes and wear them rather than looking at them as collectible pieces.

What was the catalyst for stepping into the shoe-game in 2009?

That pair of Dior Homme sneakers I bought. I really liked them but they lacked a sporty look and feel. Plus, I felt too many people were wearing them. So, based on that I really felt that I wanted to create something that wasn't there yet to bridge the gap and create a whole new dynamic when it comes to sneakers.
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Over the last eight years, what have been the biggest changes to Filling Pieces’?

We became smarter, more flexible and more experienced. We design what we feel like. When it comes to product we make no concessions. We try to push boundaries in design and the product gets better and better every season. The team is getting bigger and we're starting to make bags and ready-to-wear now which is super exciting.

What have you learned along the way? Has your love for sneakers changed at all?

I learned a lot, from what to do, to what not to do. But the biggest lesson was how to start a business. Creating product, being able to market it and sell it comes first, but to build a company and be profitable is a different thing.

What are the sneakers are on your wish-list right now?

I've just managed to get my hands on the Off-White Nike 10 collab, including the 97’s and the basketball silhouette. They’re both a real nice product with a strong story, so I’m looking forward to wearing them this winter.

And finally, what do sneakers mean to you?

Sneakers are an important part of your personality. It sounds weird, but I always look at people from the feet up. You can really tell a lot about someone's personality from their shoes. So besides footwear being my big love but also my bread and butter, it's also something that connects people. That's what we try to do at Filling Pieces. There is a certain energy about someone when they wear a nice pair of trainers, they can be respected for their choice of footwear! I think that's very interesting. Shop and explore the ‘Sneakerhead’ Christmas Gift Guide at OPUMO and follow Guillaume Philibert on Instagram, @gsrnn. Be sure to check out our ultimate guide to men’s trainers.