By Giulia Piceni. Cover image courtesy of Felipe Fiallo.
His fascinating creative process involves an explorer and inventor’s approach straddling biology and technology. Felipe Fiallo is a rising fashion star. Born in Ecuador but Italian by adoption, this visionary designer, well-known for his eco-futuristic footwear, innovation, nature, and regenerative fashion, has an incredible forward-thinking mind.
«The footwear has a relevant identity in the person. To create my shoes, I collaborate with nature», says Felipe. He is constantly looking for biological materials such as algae, fungi and minerals, combined with digital manufacturing processes to create unique designs.
Felipe Fiallo has just been selected as the EU finalist for the 2023 Circular Design Challenge (CDC), which promotes sustainability in the global fashion ecosystem, for his amazing sneakers made from a leather-like material derived from mushroom mycelium and his ‘crystal’ sneakers. This award is a big achievement for Fiallo, who will showcase his creation at the Lakmé Fashion Week x FDCI in Delhi in October. Fiallo is an Istituto Marangoni Firenze alumnus, so we couldn’t be more excited for him!
Here are three important points connecting sneaker culture and environmentally friendly design techniques that everyone should know about this young talent.
1. He has his own method for sustainability: discover biomimicry!
Nature is at the base of Felipe Fiallo’s creative process. «My dream is to regenerate the planet because we’re not sustainable anymore», says Fiallo.
Many brands today claim to be sustainable by using recycled materials, reducing plastic and trying to achieve carbon neutrality. But this is not enough: time is passing, and our only chance to stop harming our environment is to radically change how we make any item. We are the biggest parasite to our planet, constantly damaging it with our selfish needs. The entire production paradigm must change if we want to preserve our common house.
Felipe Fiallo has found a way to reconcile the creativity of the fashion industry with the natural world using biomimicry. This design method aims to replicate and apply natural organic structures to innovative fields.
For example, biomimicry is used in mechanics to optimise the speed of Japan’s Bullet Train and in architecture, like the famous Gherkin skyscraper in London, inspired by the Venus Flower Basket Sponge structure). His “Crystal Walk” sneaker doesn’t simply mimic nature in its form but also brings it to life. The upper generates crystals that eventually grow until they cover the entire footwear, adding a touch of natural magic to the innovative design.
2. He’s already a multi-award-winning fashion boy
Streetwear and sneakerheads might have peaked in the late 2010s before they were replaced by the micro trends and vibes culture, but for a true connoisseur and lover of this style, that world can’t simply be dismissed. It’s not a trend but a lifestyle, and Felipe Fiallo knows it. A pair of sneakers can take you on a journey, pushing you further away from where you’ve started, but in Fiallo’s case, they literally shaped his future and success. The visionary young designer received the Fondazione Ferragamo Award in 2019 and the People’s Choice Award at the 2020 edition of ITS (International Talent Support) for his sneakers. Impressed by his innovative design, Stella McCartney selected his creative concepts for her brand’s F/W 2020 fashion show in 2018.
Fiallo won the Digital Made Contest by Altaroma in January 2021 by proposing an eco-futuristic collection of sneakers titled We Go Far, combining new technologies and biomaterials. The collection received recognition not only from the contest but also from Vogue Italia. In February 2021, the magazine mentioned two examples of the winning collection in an article about the trendiest sustainable sneakers of the season. Fiallo was even featured in the February issue of Vogue Talents.
Additionally, some of his works have been displayed at the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York, marking a significant achievement for such a young talent.
3. Last but not least… he studied in Florence! Here are his favourite places
From the Renaissance city to the globe, Felipe Fiallo completed his Master’s in Luxury Accessories Design and Management at Istituto Marangoni Firenze in 2019, after which he got a head start in his career. And we’re incredibly proud of that. «I googled ‘best fashion schools’, and found Marangoni. After contacting some students and getting a little more information, I decided to apply. Why Florence? Tuscany promotes accessories and leather a lot, and it seemed a super fascinating place to me », says Felipe.
«To be surrounded by all this beauty, an atmosphere of peace and history, never gives you a creative crisis. My favourite place in town has always been Ponte Vecchio, but there are many places I love to go. The Procacci restaurant (Via de’ Tornabuoni, 64R), a meeting place in front of the School and then my favourite spot, La Ménagère (Via de’ Ginori, 8/R), a cafe and emporium full of secret spaces where you can also bring your laptop and work.
Extra advice for students? Fuoco Matto (Via Ventisette Aprile, 16) is where to enjoy a delicious steak and tiramisu. And I always recommend Trattoria da Tito (Via San Gallo, 11/R), where you can eat divinely».