Briony Douglas on Sneaker Art and the Pains of Copping in Canada

The Toronto-based visual artist reimagines the sneakerhead archetype in 2020 via elegance, sophistication, and weirdness.

briony off white

Image via Publicist

briony off white

Sneakerheads can be an insular, even nerdy bunch—a subculture of obsessives with keen eyes and a strong sense of the rules of the game. But if the idea of the average sneaker lover conjures an image of a certain kind of dude, Toronto-based visual artist, director, and photographer Briony Douglas completely upends it. An ardent sneaker fan who’s worked with Nike and Jordan and routinely uses shoes in her creative work, she’s reimagining the archetype of the sneakerhead in 2020, bringing to the art of the sneaker some elegance, sophistication, and panache.

One of the first times I met Briony, she was wearing a pair of brand-new Off-White x Nike Vapor Streets that were immediately enviable. As it turns out, that was only scratching the surface of her sneaker collection. Her catalogue of grails is even more impressive when you consider that Briony lives in Canada, which any Canadian collector will tell you makes it a hundred times more difficult to buy anything rare. So instead of bashing her head against the computer in a useless effort to refresh the Nike website fast enough, she’s turned to the resale market to trade shoes like a pro.

Briony has partnered with eBay Canada to help create #eBayEdits, a new campaign designed to highlight some of the rarest and most interesting eBay finds. Her list of rare and iconic sneakers runs the gamut from Travis Scott collabs to OG Jordan 1s, and even includes sneaker-adjacent merchandise, such as a classic Bulls-themed Barbie from 1998. We caught up with Briony by phone so she could tell us about her grails, her experience shooting Jordans, and why she’d sell Diors in a second if she had them.

I’m looking at your eBay edits trying not to drop two Gs on Jordans.

Right? I tried really hard to make sure there were things on there for a variety of different prices, but it’s tough. I realized everything I had on the original list was ridiculous. Like, $10,000 shoes.

One of your few eBay picks that isn’t a sneaker is a Bulls-themed Barbie. How did you come across that? Did you have one of those in the '90s?

Haha, I don’t remember them from the 90s, but I somehow came across the Raptors Barbie a few months ago. They’re deadstock from 1998. That was really hard to find. I have the Grizzlies one too — one of my followers sent it to me.

What was your first pair of sneakers?

I’ve always worn Air Force 1s. I feel like I was born in those.

How did you get into sneakers more seriously?

I’ve always loved them, but I didn’t really get into it until three years ago. I was hired by Jordan and Vogue—it was the first-ever collaboration with Anna Wintour, and they wanted a female photographer. That was a huge deal, and it really sparked that interest in me.

Did the shoot require a lot of research into Jordans?

I already knew a lot about it, but I did do some more research, because I was nervous—because it’s frickin’ Anna Wintour. The shoe itself was pretty fire. Do you remember that one? It was a zip-down that came in red and white. I made this whole elaborate dinner scene where it looks like the person was standing on the dinner table. It was cool.

You use sneakers a lot in your own art. What was it about the Vogue shoot that inspired your interest in using sneakers more going forward?

With most of my art, I try to make it different—not because I want it to be different, but because I myself am different. I didn’t want the Vogue shoot to look like other sneaker shots. When I did that shot I had so much fun putting the sneakers in a position that you wouldn’t usually see them. That really sparked an interest in me. But sneakers are also an extensive of my art itself. Sneakers are art pieces themselves.

How much do you spend on sneakers generally?

I am obsessed with sneakers. When those Jordan Off-Whites drop, I will literally do whatever it takes. I’ll spend all my virtual dollars.

But this is the thing—we’re in Canada, so it’s not easy. There’s no SNKRS app. It’s not like in the U.S. What’s your approach?

Unfortunately, because we are in Canada, we get the short end of the stick. I actually end up having to buy a lot of shoes at resale. That’s why sites like eBay are so good. You can buy and sell. It sucks here compared to the States.


Have you tried to go online and buy from the retailers directly?

I tried to get the last 5s that came out in February. I was up for two nights until 3 a.m. and sat there waiting to refresh. But the bots buy everything. We get really screwed over here in Canada. Nike sent me to the All-Star game last year and they were telling us to go on the SNKRS app. Me and another girl from Canada were like, "We don’t have that app." Everyone couldn’t believe it. "How do you buy sneakers?" It’s like, well, we work really hard to get them!

By using sites like eBay?

Yeah. I end up using eBay a lot. I’ll sell or trade something else to get what I want.

What makes the difference between a sneaker to keep and a sneaker to resell?

If it speaks to my soul. If I had won the Diors—they’re fire, don’t get me wrong—there’s no way I would have kept them. They’re going for like 15 grand. I would have taken a picture and made it look like I was flexing, but they definitely would have been up on eBay real quick.

That’s an extreme case, but when you know something is going for a lot of money, it can be hard to justify keeping. If my friends knew that some of the shoes I had were worth a few thousand dollars they’d think I was insane.

Right? People don’t get it. But it’s funny: the other day someone told me how much they’d spent on a bag, and I thought, 'Why would you spend so much on a purse?' But then I was like, 'Okay. I do the same thing with sneakers.'


What did you think of the Chunky Dunkys?

Well, the Diors, the design itself is nothing to write home about. Whereas the Chunky Dunkys are essentially art themselves. They’re cool. Or the yellow Grateful Deads that were just announced, the fuzzy ones.

Hm. I don’t know about that one, personally.

I like it just because I like what you just said—I like that people will look at my shoes and think, you know, 'I’m not sure about that. It’s a little too out there for me.' I like when people think that.

When you buy on eBay, are you as comfortable with the legitimacy as you would be using StockX or Grailed, which verify them?

I am, yes. But even if I’m buying on Grailed or StockX, I’m still doing the same level of research. I’m checking into the seller. I’ll look and see if that shoe has been known to have fakes. And I’ll always make sure that the box is included—the number on the tag on the shoe should match the box.

Have you been burned before?

No. But if I’m going to spend a lot of money on a shoe, I will run it past a few of my friends that are extremely intelligent with that. It’s not just eBay. It’s every single site, you should be checking that when doing sneaker buys. The fakes out there are so good now.

What’s the best grail in your collection?

The original Rick Owens Dunk. These are super rare, because when Rick Owens first designed them, he didn’t mean for the swoosh to look like Nike’s, but Nike felt it was a rip-off, so they only made them for one year. They’re amazing.