PHOTOGRAPHY BY DANIELLE LEVASSEUR
Including which pair she never wears…
Odessa Paloma Parker
Date June 11, 2021
In recent years, visual artist Briony Douglas has not only gained a great amount of attention for her quirky and thought-provoking works but also grown her reputation as a serious sneaker collector. It’s an interest that started in her youth but truly jumped off through her involvement in a 2018 photo shoot that heralded a collaboration between Nike’s Jordan Brand and Vogue.
Since then, she has gone on to collect everything from Rick Owens’s infamous “Dunks” — so called due to their resemblance to a patented style by Nike (for which Owens received a cease-and-desist order, thereby making them a highly desired item for a sneakerhead) — to L.A.-based creative Melody Ehsani’s Wmns Air Jordan 1 Mid “Fearless” style.
“I spend a lot of time researching,” says Douglas. “And I get a lot of information from friends. There’s always somebody who knows when a drop is happening.” PHOTOGRAPHY BY DANIELLE LEVASSEUR.
Douglas says she does most of her sneaker shopping online due to demand, highlighting Toronto’s Makeway as one of her favourite spots because of its female-centric ethos. PHOTOGRAPHY BY DANIELLE LEVASSEUR.
“I’ve always been artistic,” says Douglas. “My love of fashion came later, as I grew to appreciate it, and I respect it because I view it as art, too.” No wonder she’s captivated by these zesty-yellow trainers from creative phenom Virgil Abloh’s 2019 collaboration with Nike. PHOTOGRAPHY BY DANIELLE LEVASSEUR.
“The latter are one of my favourite pairs of shoes,” shares Douglas over Zoom. She came upon them in a way that was very different from her usual online hunts via auction sites like eBay and retailer raffles; she was forced to do so because of the prevalence of bots that snap up much-anticipated sneakers upon their release. Douglas says with a laugh that while she was on-set for a shoot, she would sneak around corners trying to buy a pair online, but within minutes they were gone. After learning of the bots’ cull, Ehsani made a move to correct this unfair advantage.
“She went on her IG Live a few hours later and said: ‘I know what happened. If you want them, DM me right now,’” recalls Douglas. “If you were lucky enough to have her open your DM, you’d get them. And my message was opened.”
“As I’ve moved more deeply into the street-culture world, I’ve seen a huge shift in my work,” says Douglas about how sneakers have become a muse. “I do what I love; you’ll see this come through in my work.” PHOTOGRAPHY BY DANIELLE LEVASSEUR.
One of Douglas’s most recent artistic projects was a Stan Smith sculpture made from almost 10,000 donated bottle caps. “It speaks to the sustainability initiatives Adidas is adopting for its production,” she says. Photography courtesy of Briony Douglas.
Jerry Lorenzo’s collaborative shoe with Nike is one pair that Douglas doesn’t wear. “They’re the most iconic sneakers in my collection because this is the only time Nike ever allowed a designer to redesign a performance shoe,” she says. PHOTOGRAPHY BY DANIELLE LEVASSEUR.
Douglas shares that bots are a huge bane for collectors, especially given how much of a digitized undertaking snagging sneakers has become. “You almost always have to buy them on resale now, which is crazy expensive,” she notes. Given their precious nature, Douglas treats her assemblage tenderly, storing them in compartmentalized shelving units and even keeping some pairs purely for visual pleasure.
“I’m very careful,” she adds. “I check the weather before I go out. If I’m going to an event that’s going to be crowded, I won’t wear a yellow pair because they’re going to get stepped on.” The hands-on nature of her work means that for certain scenarios, she’ll wear many different pairs of sneakers. For example, she travelled with 10 pairs for a five-day trip to record behind-the-scenes content of the construction of a five-metre whale sculpture (made out of recycled materials) in Vancouver. She wore prized pairs for recording and then switched them out to continue working on the installation.
“It’s been interesting to see luxury auction houses selling sneakers,” notes Douglas. Here, she’s wearing 2021 Foam Runner shoes from Yeezy; the first prototype style made by the brand recently sold at a Sotheby’s auction for $1.8 million. PHOTOGRAPHY BY DANIELLE LEVASSEUR.
Douglas owns several pairs of sneakers in
shades of pink. “I keep my collection in mind when buying clothes,” she says of how she marries her passion with
her outfits. PHOTOGRAPHY BY DANIELLE LEVASSEUR.
Douglas points to Instagram accounts @if_i_cant_wear_snkrs and @simplykiah as resources for learning about sneaker history and drops. PHOTOGRAPHY BY DANIELLE LEVASSEUR.
These preservation measures raise the question: What will Douglas eventually do with her sneakers? “I’m very lucky to be at a point in my career where I can just collect,” she says. “I’ll sell something if there’s a big grail I want. [For the uninitiated, that means an extremely rare pair.] My boyfriend is constantly swapping — that’s part of the game for him. I get that, but I really love all of my shoes.”
PHOTOGRAPHY BY DANIELLE LEVASSEUR. HAIR AND MAKEUP, VANESSA BAUDNER.
Get the best of FASHION in your inbox
Thanks for signing up!
You’ll get the latest fashion, beauty and celeb news delivered right to your email
Now, check your inbox to complete your subscription
We won’t ever use your email address for anything else