In an industry addicted to retro, Highsnobiety presents The New Vanguard of Footwear, a dedicated hub that celebrates the pioneers from around the globe who are changing the face of what today represents a multi-billion dollar industry. For this debut iteration we spotlight nine designers (most of whom were born after the Air Jordan) working across sportswear, streetwear, luxury and everything in between. They represent youth culture today, and show us early glimpses of where it’s going next.
Martin Sallieres is part of Guillaume Philibert’s tight-knit team at Filling Pieces, and he has successfully led the label into a new aesthetic era. His biggest hit to date is the brand’s Crease Runner, which has tapped into the trending ’70s aesthetic, turning it up several notches with an exaggerated waffle sole.
Because Filling Pieces is a relatively small brand, Sallieres’ work has a much bigger impact on the brand than if he were to be working at a major sportswear brand or fashion house. He’s one of two designers currently working for Filling Pieces — the other being head of design Michael Leennheden — meaning he’s designing everything from more commercial models to men’s sneakers and women’s heels.
As is the case with many of his colleagues — Tinker Hatfield and Steven Smith being the most notable ones — Sallieres did not originally plan to go into sneaker design. His love for sneakers (and a little nudge from his girlfriend) ultimately brought Sallieres to Filling Pieces.
“Initially, I wanted to be a car designer. I saw it as the holy grail of design back then,” Sallieres laughs. “My girlfriend actually told me like, ‘Why don’t you design shoes?’ Because I wanted to go to every fucking sneaker store I could whenever we were traveling.” It’s a good thing Sallieres listened, because his pivot to footwear looks like it was the correct decision.
Most of us will be able to identify with Sallieres. How many of you have traveled to a new country or city and obsessively mapped out all of the must-see sneaker spots beforehand? I, for one, can say that I don’t walk past a sneaker store without going inside, and every overseas trip is combined with a memory of a specific sneaker store. Sallieres shares in those memories, fondly telling me about the model that kickstarted his love for sneakers. “It was actually a very basic Nike Cortez. I was just fascinated by the sole, with the small ripples on the outsole,” he muses.
Sallieres’ appreciation for sneakers — though he wouldn’t call himself a sneakerhead — shines through in his work, most notably his baby — the Filling Pieces Crease Runner. “The original concept and everything came from me,” he explains. “So I have an emotional connection with the shoe and really fought for the colorways that released.”
Filling Pieces is traditionally a more lifestyle-focused brand, using premium leather to make sneakers that used to live in a world of their own, without much inspiration from sportswear models. That has changed, as the brand around Phibert has diversified its offering to include everything from heels, mules, and loafers to vintage running-inspired models such as the Crease Runner.
As for what he’s personally inspired by, Sallieres mentions his admiration for Nike’s fast shoes, like the Moon Racers and Vaporfly. Their curves and general silhouettes remind one of hype-cars, and as we’ve seen courtesy of the likes of Kith, Aime Leon Dore, and other brands, streetwear and cars are not so far removed from one another as one may think.
Sallieres agrees and admits that his approach to design is still somewhat inspired by cars. “My sketching style from when I sketched cars has influenced the way I design shoes. It’s very similar. It’s very fast lines from left to right, very streamlined. Now it’s evolving a bit more, it’s a bit looser. I try to turn the details of things I see into shoes. ‘How could we make this into a shoe?’ or ‘How can I translate this into footwear?’”
It’s always interesting to hear what industry insiders are currently wearing and their thoughts on specific sneakers, even more so when they design shoes for a living. “I’m currently wearing the Nike Vomero 5 SP that was released last year. I almost want to get another pair because it’s so worn out,” says Sallieres. “And the Presto, I was always really fascinated by the Presto because it has such a crazy construction. The tooling is amazing. I feel like we don’t make soles like this anymore. It’s almost sensual, the way it’s made.”
So what does Sallieres think of the reissues of iconic sneakers such as the Presto? “The unique way Virgil worked on it for the first release, makes it the best silhouette of the original ten. But I’m not really feeling what Nike and Virgil are doing with the collab now, I think they’re running out of ideas,” he says. “The Presto React, on the other hand, I think it’s a big mistake to call it a Presto. There’s nothing about it that makes it a Presto besides the caging on the side. Then you can call an Adidas Ultra Boost a Presto.”
Sallieres has only been working in the industry for a couple of years, but his baptism of fire at Filling Pieces has molded him into one of the most promising designers of our decade. With his Crease Runner released out into in the world, the budding designer is already looking to the future, and has a clear idea of how it’s going to look.
“I think the future of sneaker design will go more and more into a high-end type of construction,” he says, before adding: “Right now, we’re experiencing a comeback of formal footwear. We’ve had all these hybrids of sneakers and formal shoes. I hope that in the future it will be more homogeneous where you won’t know where the formal footwear and the sneakers start and stop.”
What makes the future so exciting is that it’s so uncertain but if you pay your cards right, you can have an impact on the outcome. Time will tell what the future of sneakers holds, but it looks to be in the right hands at the moment.