The Canadian photographer dishes on her favourite finds – and even the ones that got away – on National Sneaker Day.
Toronto-based image maker Briony Douglas has built an impressive following thanks to her work with clients ranging from Gucci to Chanel to the Toronto Raptors; but she’s also become known as a huge sneaker head in the collector world. Naturally, eBay approached her to be part of its #eBayedits initiative; her uniquely diverse selection, which includes Melody Ehsani‘s take on Nike Air Jordan 1s, is sure to bring a smile to someone’s face this National Sneaker Day.
We caught up with Douglas to find out more about her personal collection and her picks for you.
How did you become interested in sneakers, and sneaker collecting?
I’ve always loved sneakers, but my fascination really took off about three years ago. What really sparked it was being chosen by Jordan and Vogue to shoot their first collaboration. That was a really big honour – it was a female shoot, and they wanted a female photographer. From there, my interest in them just took off.
What was the piece that really kick started your collection?
The first piece [I bought] that was really a collector’s piece was the Rick Owens Dunks. It took around half a year to find them in my size and in the style I wanted. The reason it was so rare is because the shoes were originally on a cease-and-desist from Nike years ago, because the side mark was too similar to the swoosh. So, they’re very rare. There are so many stories to each sneaker that I don’t think many people know about – I find that really fascinating.
When you’re sourcing sneakers, are you doing it mostly online? Did you try to find pieces while you were traveling pre-COVID? Do these kinds of finds exist somewhere like a second-hand store?
I find them mostly online, and the reason for that is that being in Canada – when I am here – our selection is limited. And the problem finding pieces in stores like a thrift shop is that they’d be hard to authenticate. I can’t see the reviews from the seller like I could online, and that’s always something I look for; and I typically wouldn’t be able see that the ID number on the shoe matches the ID number on the box in that kind of store. I get that security when I’m shopping online.
On that note, how has a platform like eBay helped you to build your collection? Obviously as you said, the scope of product is much wider, but what else does it provide?
Well, because I’m a female but I like men’s styles too, a lot of the sizes are harder to find from an original retailer; typically the chances of winning a raffle, for example, are a lot slimmer. So, I do have to look to resale, and eBay is great for that in terms of finding smaller sizes. Also, with the pandemic happening, I don’t want to be spending crazy amounts of money, so what’s cool about resale is that I can buy and sell sneakers – I can flip some of my shoes, which is a part of collecting them.
When I think of sneaker collecting, I think of people who aren’t really wearing the shoes as much as having them to display and keep preserved. Is that true for you, or do you look for things that you want to wear?
A bit of both. I have one pair of shoes that I won’t wear – the Fear of God x Nike collaboration; they’re the first shoes that Jerry Lorenzo designed. There were 500 pairs for friends and family, and he personally gave me a pair. I’ve put them on for a photo once, and then immediately took them off – like, I put them on while seated and took them off while seated, I didn’t even walk around in them. They’re super special to me. However, most sneakers that I have I do wear, because I like what I collect and I want to share them.
That’s something I definitely think about in terms of collecting – what enjoyment does someone get from doing it? It’s fun that you want to wear them out and about, and I’m sure you have a lot of people who comment on them.
Yeah, it’s always cool when someone walks by and acknowledges them or knows about them – especially if they’re not something well-known. If it’s something rare and someone comments on it, you get a little surge of excitement.
Do you have any favourites in your collection?
The Melody Ehsani Jordan 1s are by far one of my favourite pairs. I just love her as a designer – I love what she stands for. She’s all about inclusivity and empowering female voices. And that’s something we’re seeing more now, that sneaker collabs aren’t just with athletes anymore but with people of interest. It’s very much about amplifying these people’s voices, which I think is really cool.
Why do you think sneakers have become such a huge collector item over time?
For myself, I view them as pieces of art. And I think that’s what is growing this audience even more, and why people want them. Sotheby’s recently did a huge auction on some of the most iconic pairs of sneakers, and years ago, that wouldn’t have happened. It’s so interesting to see this evolution, especially being an artist. I really see my sneaker collection as a reflection of myself – I’m pretty eclectic, so that’s why I like [really] out-there sneakers.
Are there any sneakers out there that you haven’t been able to source? Are you still searching for them?
The biggest loss in the last year for me was the Off-White Air Jordan 5s in grey. I remember I was flying out to Vancouver, and I was trying to beat the robots as the plane was about to take off. However, a new colourway is coming out at the end of this year, so that’s something I’m going to try and get.
Do you have any tips for people who want to start collecting?
Buy the pieces that you love; just because something is really popular and hard to get doesn’t mean that it’s going to be your favourite piece. Some of my favourite pieces that I wear and love are general release.
If you are trying to collect more rare items, definitely do your research. When you’re buying on a site like eBay, make sure that the person that you’re purchasing from has good reviews and it’s not the first item ever that they’re selling – that can be a warning sign. Also, if a price seems too good to be true, I’ll search for knock-offs in that type of shoe to see what they look like. And I’ll usually send something I’m interested in to a few other collectors to ask for their thoughts.