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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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