Which Feiyue? A brief sneaker history
Today, one of the main problems Feiyue faces is the proliferation of knock-off sneakers across all sales channels. In China alone, there are at least 1 million Feiyue sneakers sold to villages and small towns, but only about 10 percent are made by authorised producers. This subsequently has leaked into international markets with cheap, poor quality versions of the shoes claiming to be authentic selling on eBay and Amazon for less than $10.
Feiyue has a complex (and intriguing history) of contesting producers, owners, trademarks and bankruptcies, which leaves consumers wondering who is Feiyue?
Ironically, it’s that cross-pollination of aesthetic, culture and conflict that makes the brand what it is today… And it looks to be reaching a happy ending:
The beginning: 1920 - 2000
The Feiyue branding we recognise today came to fruition in the 1960s (a derivation of a military shoe that had been produced since the 1920s) with the aim of manufacturing a Chinese sneaker targeted to the masses. The inspiration for the name “Feiyue” translates broadly to “leap or fly forward”, a reference to China’s “Great Leap Forward”. It became an instant hit and most notoriously became synonymous with the arts of Wushu and Kung Fu.
Internationalisation: 2000 – 2019
Following dwindling sales, as consumers looked to international brands the original manufacturer in China went Bankrupt in the 2000s. However, both Chinese and International entrepreneurs saw an opportunity to re-introduce the brand with multiple derivations of the original coming to market. Two main winners emerged; Feiyue International (BBCI) which improved the quality/design and targeted overseas markets and Feiyue DaFu who kept to the original plimsol design aimed at local Chinese markets.
Over the subsequent decade, lawsuits ensued with both parities winning rights to various markets. Feiyue International benefited from highlighting the history and heritage to build credibility overseas, whilst Feiyue DaFu benefited by replicating the international improvements in range and quality of the shoes in local Chinese markets. Both sneakers continued to be manufactured in China.
Subsequent success ensued, with celebrities and designers seen sporting and collaborating with the international arm of the brand. Whilst Feiyue DaFu featured heavily in the Bejing Olympic’s opening ceremony.
Within China, there continues to be multiple manufacturers claiming rights to the Feiyue brand and actively producing derivations of the shoes. This results in varying qualities and designs becoming available, which subsequently flood eCommerce channels. A few examples of differences in quality are highlighted below:
Examples of Feiyue producers (Feiyue London Shoe vs. Amazon & eBay versions)
To counteract the numerous low-quality derivations of Feiyue that continue to flood the market Feiyue International and Feiyue Dafu are now working collaboratively on a “1920 Plimsol” due for release in the UK, Europe and USA this summer.
Searching for the “original” Feiyue shoe is perhaps something of a contradiction: from a quality and aesthetic point of view the shoe we now commonly recognise as a Feiyue has developed well beyond its original construction. From a heritage perspective, no company has a pure linage given the bankruptcies and conflicting trademarks. However, this potted history and conflict has created the shoes we know and love today.
One thing is for sure, if you want a shoe for $10 off eBay and Amazon you will likely get what you pay for. A cheap imitation not recognised by the major producer’s whatever it’s country of origin.
About the author:
Matty Derwent is a UK based entrepreneur who owns his own branding and e-commerce company (Vulcanize), has acted as a director for leading energy tech companies who’ve raised over five million pounds in funding and is a distributor for a leading trainer brand (Feiyue).
He’s an avid blogger/social media user on Instagram and LinkedIn, with 20,000 + followers on each platform.
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