While sneaker deconstruction may be a fetishized phenomenon for some, British artist FILFURY has transformed the act into a highly conceptual art form. Trading in the canvas for sneaker parts (among other objects), the artist, née Phil Robson, translates his love of hip-hop, UK music subcultures, sportswear and, of course, sneakers into tactile sculptural pieces.
From skulls and insects to weaponry and birds, Robson’s acute attention to detail and wildly imaginative concepts have lead to a slew of collaborations with high-profile brands like Nike, Jordan Brand, Philipp Plein, Reebok, adidas, Casio, Corona and counting – which has in turn resulted in an employment of other mediums including car and BMX parts and clothing.
We caught up with FILFURY to find out more about his passion for sneaker art, his role as an artist and where he is headed next both as an artist and a creative director.
When did you start designing/creating art?
Professionally since 2003. But fake IDs and rave flyers were the intro to design, during my teens.
What are some influences behind your work?
My youth and the youth of today. I’m staying young by acting like a big kid, never stopping dreaming and being playful. I’m big into my streetwear, have been since my ’90s childhood. So fashion, music, art, UK subcultures, a little bit of U.S. sports, along with my travels and living overseas have all influenced how I see things and feel inspired to create.
Who are some of the biggest names you’ve collaborated with?
Nike, Jordan, adidas, Reebok, Casio G Shock, size?, Sony Music, Philipp Plein and I’m currently doing something fun with PlayStation.
What’s the greatest satisfaction you get from what you do?
When creating just for myself. No client, no brief, just making something because I want to. I love to create, whether that be as a personal artwork, a commissioned art piece/sculpture or designing and directing a piece of film or motion graphics. I love the idea process, the “wouldn’t it be wicked if…,” but I also enjoy the craft – perfecting a vision and fine tuning its details.
The satisfaction comes from doing it well and with pride. I’m a tough critic on myself, but that’s good as it pushes me to keep getting better. I strive to outdo myself each project. I still have much to learn and want to stay hungry to evolve and refine my approach.
Favorite sneaker at the moment?
I should probably say something current like the VaporMax, since I got up early the other day to cop. But the reality is that UK weather still has me wearing my SneakerBoots (90s, 95s). However, when the sun is out I’m still rocking AM1s, I doubled up on the mini swoosh release last summer. Anything white with a bubble, I’m good.
What significance is carried by all of the bugs and skulls?
Nature, life, death, symmetry. I could get deep, but it isn’t on that level. I love graphic objects, the bolder and more symmetrical the better. I’m not trying to say anything radical here, I’m creating stuff I love the look of, repurposing it my own way.
Why sneakers as the primary base?
I’m a sneakerhead. So initially I just wanted to create using the things that surround me. However, this has only been the first chapter of me making this kind of art. I’ve already evolved a little into using different material and objects to deconstruct.
Recent commissions from Philipp Plein saw me take apart jackets, handbags, high heels, and I’ve started to play with tracksuits and windbreakers now. Also currently having some fun with BMX and car parts.
Who are some of your favorite contemporary designers?
Designers, artists, photographers, creative studios…there are loads I love. Ron English, KAWS, INSA, FUNSKULL, Colin Christian, Dave White, Jonathan Zawada, Ewen Spencer, Olivia Rose, Patrick Claire + Raoul Marks, Man Vs Machine…I love variety in execution, and these lot are masters of theirs.
One thing you’ll never create (design-wise)?
I’m pretty open to anything, however, I’d never want to celebrate hate. Nothing that offends out of choice. I’m keeping this positive.
What’s your favorite piece of work that you’ve designed?
Honestly, I don’t think I’ve made my favorite piece yet – each one has imperfections that annoy me. I often look back on pieces and think “that looks whack” now. Having things like Instagram means I share more, which means I just put up stuff I’m making, throw away ideas or make some that are more crafted and thought out than others. I wish I could self-censor more, but then again, who really cares if it’s forgotten about the next day?
More music stuff. I’ve just designed my first album sleeve, which I’m mad happy about. It’s for a UK grime artist, which is my vibe, so I’m blessed that I could be a part of that.
I’m also doing more physical sculptures. I’m moving into production on a large-scale deconstructed art piece using car parts into wall-hung lips. I’m finessing my BMX AK too for a solo exhibition (getting my car lips to Miami in December). And then there’s my direction work – more film and animation stuff with The Mill. Big things planned.