Let’s hear it for eco-design and regenerative fashion! Meet Felipe Fiallo, the designer turning sustainable footwear into the extraordinary
“With a radical eco-futuristic vision and a technical approach, my creations come from a deep research process, the outcome of a cross-contamination between digital fabrication, sustainability and style” – Felipe Fiallo, fashion designer and Istituto Marangoni alumnus specialised in responsible footwear.
This is what Felipe Fiallo writes about himself on LinkedIn. Born in Ecuador but Italian by adoption, this young designer is breaking the rules of fashion and footwear through his Felipe Fiallo brand, a luxury footwear brand focused on bringing together future-forward design and eco-progressive approaches steeped in Milanese tradition. With a significant emphasis on digital craftsmanship and the knowledge of next-gen materials, his creations have already caught the attention of celebrities like J Balvin and Paris Hilton as well as of industry leaders including Sara Sozzani Maino, Alessandro Maria Ferreri, and Edgardo Osorio, among many others.
IM alumnus and designer Felipe Fiallo during the Circular Design Challenge on 5th September at the Istituto Marangoni Design School in Milan
Fiallo is a highly innovative mind who completed his Master’s in Luxury Accessories Design and Management at Istituto Marangoni Firenze in 2019. According to his experience, this programme equipped him with the right skills to enter the world of luxury, specifically the footwear industry, with a seven eco-futuristic digital technology footwear collection named “We Go Far.” He told us:
“I always think about doing things to connect people, and I deeply believe in the interaction of different fields to create something new. When I design, I don’t start from the appearance; I start from a concept or a philosophy. […] Now I know how to translate the aesthetic of nature to fashion, thanks to biology, technology and design” – Felipe Fiallo
A crucial part of his design process involves the intersection of biology and technology. Fiallo constantly searches for biological materials (some typical of Latin America), such as fungi, algae, and minerals, and combines them with digital manufacturing processes. As he stated on the Felipe Fiallo brand’s LinkedIn account:
“Our approach is built upon the artisanal practices of ancestors and leveraging patented innovations that make the world a better place” – Felipe Fiallo
In his permanent research and development of new materials and footwear methods, Fiallo has already registered 11 designs and 1 outsole patent. His shoes explore everything from biomaterials made of biodegradable and growing materials to digital fabrication techniques like 3D printing, zero waste, and upcycled luxury leftovers. Fiallo’s sustainable shoes can be made from a leather-like material derived from mushroom mycelium or reused scraps of leather products combined into an exotic-looking animal skin pattern. But this footwear maverick has also created unique shoes like the Crystal Walk sneakers featuring “natural crystals that grow directly on the footwear thanks to the process of over-mineralisation,” as Vogue reported in their list of the 5 sustainable sneakers not to be missed. Fiallo’s “Food for Fish is a biodegradable shoe designed to be used for 365 days before it naturally starts to decompose.”
Fiallo’s sustainable shoes can be made from a leather-like material derived from mushroom mycelium or reused scraps of leather products combined into an exotic-looking animal skin pattern
Everyone wants him! Awards and mentions: an endless list
Felipe Fiallo’s innovative design has achieved resounding success, receiving several awards and mentions over the years. To name a few, he won the “ITS Fondazione Ferragamo” and “ITS People’s Choice Awards” in 2020. In 2021, Vogue Italia ranked his “We Go Far” eco-futuristic footwear among the 5 best sustainable sneakers. In 2023, the Latin American Fashion Summit (held in November 2023 in Miami) selected Fiallo as a finalist for the “Social Impact Project” category. Moreover, SYKY selected him as one of 10 designers for the SYKY Collective incubator, a one-year programme launched by luxury fashion digital platform Syky, which has joined forces with the British Fashion Council to help budding luxury houses build and scale their businesses.
Felipe Fiallo’s artistic and design contributions to the fashion industry have had a significant environmental and social impact that cannot be overlooked. Stella McCartney selected his creative concepts for her brand’s F/W 2020 fashion show in 2018. In 2019, The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York decided to acquire Fiallo’s creative work for their permanent exhibition. In addition to being a footwear designer, Felipe Fiallo is a visionary groundbreaker, and the fashion industry knows it.
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What’s next? Felipe Fiallo is ready to wow Lakmè Fashion Week in Delhi as a finalist in India’s largest sustainable fashion contest, the Circular Design Challenge
Fiallo has just been selected as the EU finalist for the 2023 Circular Design Challenge (CDC). Presented by Reliance-owned brand R-Elan (the next-generation fabric brand of India’s largest conglomerate) in association with the United Nations in India, the CDC aims to promote sustainability and circular practices in the global fashion ecosystem. The competition was opened to global designers for the first time this year, with regional rounds held in Milan, London and Hong Kong. To achieve this goal, CDC has partnered with Istituto Marangoni in the EU, the British Council in the UK, and Redress in the APAC regions.
Fiallo's sustainable shoe piece presented in Milan during the EU selection for the 2023 Circular Design Challenge
On September 5, the Istituto Marangoni Design School in Milan hosted the EU selection, where a jury of experts selected Felipe Fiallo for his game-changing solutions in circularity, and he is now ready to fly to India to show his work along with the other finalists. The 2023 Circular Design Challenge will culminate at the upcoming edition of Lakmé Fashion Week x FDCI this October in Delhi, where six finalists from all over the world will show their circular design innovations.
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“The winner of this year’s challenge will be selected by a panel of judges and will receive a £14,000 cash fund,” stated Vogue Business. “Both the winner and runner-up will be mentored by Orsola de Castro, co-founder of Fashion Revolution and creative director of Esthetica, a platform for sustainable design.”
Fiallo with the EU jury that selected him as a finalist for the the 2023 Circular Design Challenge. From left to right, Marina Spadafora (Sustainability Advisor, Professor and Author), Felipe Fiallo (IM alumnus and designer), Francesco Fioretto (Research and Education Director, Istituto Marangoni) and Francesca Delogu (Fashion & Lifestyle journalist)