At the end of July, Dutch streetwear brand Filling Pieces released a capsule collection in collaboration with German skate brand Dagger. The up and coming German brand works closely with the LGBTQ+ community and tends to reference the glam punk era. With a dose of leopard print, the collection was different from what we are used to from Filling Pieces (known in part for its Low Top shoe, which bridges streetwear and high fashion). The brand launched a capsule collection by Filling Pieces and Yamuna in early August, a multi-disciplinary queer artist dedicated to serving and celebrating the underground LGBTQ+ subculture ballroom community. The result is a drop full of soft, colourful styles.
The current fresh breeze in the air brings food for thought. How about LGBTQ+ representation in streetwear, anyway? According to Filling Pieces marketing manager Alberto Lopez, the streetwear industry still has quite a long way to go in this regard. Especially compared to high-fashion, for example, where greater strides are being made regarding inclusion and representation. The differences are huge, according to Lopez. With the recent fashion collaborations, he hopes to bridge the gap between queer culture and streetwear in order to achieve a more inclusive kind of future.
Filling Pieces is the right place for that, in his experience. Since Filling Pieces was founded by Guillaume Philibert Chin in 2009, brand ethos 'bridging the gap' has been the company's main value and cornerstone. With this, the brand has been connecting people of different cultures and ethnicities for over a decade. When Lopez joined the company two years ago and started the conversation on LGBTQ+ representation with Chin, the brand ethos was held dear, but on entirely new grounds.
The first major project to focus on this was with Zalando. This represented a reflection of a year in which Filling Pieces made internal changes and reflected this in projects and collaborations, Lopez explains. Later there was a collaboration with Joolz focused on non-traditional family and in the latest Keti Koti campaign there was a focus on queer talent. Keti Koti is an annual celebratory festival in The Netherlands that commemorates the emancipation of slaves. It is celebrated on July 1, a day that is also known as Emancipation Day in Suriname, a former colony of The Netherlands.
Meanwhile, an increasing share of the Filling Pieces team is queer and from different backgrounds. "This has come about organically, but diversity is our main value anyway," Lopez says. FashionUnited talked to him about the collections and the role they play for Filling Pieces and the streetwear industry.
Can you talk a bit more about how you see the role of inclusion and representation in the streetwear world?
To me, streetwear is still very masculine. This is woven into the community and heritage. Of course, there are many fashion brands that touch on the queer community and representation is also slowly growing within streetwear, but there is still a long way to go. This is what I hope to change for Filling Pieces. When I joined the brand, I felt and saw that the image that also projected Filling Pieces as a brand was very masculine. I wanted to be a bit more open to conveying different types of energy, making the brand more accessible to everyone.
How did that go?
It's great when you have the full support of the founder of the brand. We share the same vision and it's been a nice learning curve for everyone in-house. Overall, I think it's all to do with our brand values and really the vision Chin had at the beginning: 'bridging the gap'. So bridging different types of people and cultures. With Chin, I discussed that if we really wanted to build a brand on that basis, we would have to fully act on that. We then started looking at not only race and ethnicity, but also genders and sexualities.
It was nice how Chin and I sat at the table and he wanted to learn more about how we can be more diverse as a brand and how to implement that internally. He trusted me in that vision and to pursue this path. We hired people who would help make me really build this and give the brand credibility at the same time. This also led to in-house initiatives. We set up a 'culture club' to educate the team on cultural issues, including the queer community. For this, we organise activities like panel discussions and outings every fortnight. I'm queer myself, but when you hire queer staff it doesn't mean everything changes overnight. For me too, it has been a journey of listening to people and discovering new ways of working.
Why did you choose to collaborate with Dagger and Yamuna?
Of course, we have done collaborations with Zalando and Joolz before and also worked with LGBTQ+ artists for Keti Koti. In this collaboration, we wanted to specifically address diversity and identity. Energy played a central role in this. That is also the slogan for both campaigns: "Energy is everything". We wanted to build on the philosophy that fashion is personal. The perception of what is feminine, masculine or neutral is different for everyone. So we wanted to go beyond polarising masculine and feminine and instead link these two pillars to a feeling that can be different from day to day. It doesn't matter what gender or sexual identity you have; fashion shouldn't be about that. It is about self-expression. In the morning you can feel super feminine or have powerful energy, and in the evening it can be different again. We wanted to create capsules that are for everyone, to express different types of energy at different times.
So we chose the two brands that we felt could best convey that because they both express distinctive and very different energies. When you meet Yamuna, she is so daring, powerful and assertive with a super feminine, distinctly pink energy, while with Dagger the energy is more punk, underground and defiant. But both are queer and both are comfortable with that. We wanted to choose brands that actually exude very different energies but can still work together under the same brand umbrella.
It was also important for us to give representation to different markets. That is why we chose Dagger in Germany and Yamuna in the Netherlands.