FLY­ING FOR­WARD

Chi­nese na­tional sneaker brands gain ground as trendy choices at home and abroad

Global Times - Weekend - - TRENDS - By Huang Tingt­ing

While lace-up sneak­ers as retro icons are not new in fash­ion cir­cles, the fact that com­mon old-fash­ioned Chi­nese sneak­ers are be­com­ing some of the world’s best-known celebri­ties top choice of footwear is rather un­usual.

From mod­els tak­ing to the cat­walk dur­ing Paris Men’s Fash­ion Week Spring Sum­mer 2018 to Bri­tish ac­tor and model Poppy Delev­ingne and US de­signer Rachel Roy, more and more over­seas fash­ion icons have been seen wear­ing Chi­nese Feiyue (Fly­ing For­ward) – the clas­sic blue-and-red striped sneak­ers that orig­i­nated in Shang­hai. Seen as out­dated and un­fash­ion­able by Chi­nese, the shoes cost around 40 yuan ($6) on the brand’s main­land site, but over­seas that price rises to $65 on Feiyue’s of­fi­cial for­eign mar­ket site.

In or out?

Dubbed by US fash­ion site In Style as “a beloved streetwear sta­ple” and Arab e-com­merce site Souq as “cult items,” the sneak­ers first came to pub­lic at­ten­tion out­side of China in 2008, when Hol­ly­wood star Or­lando Bloom wore Feiyue’s clas­sic line of sneak­ers when he was film­ing New York, I Love You.

The 54-year-old Shang­hai-pro­duced sneak­ers fa­vored by Chi­nese mar­tial arts prac­ti­tion­ers and the work­ing class have long been val­ued for their light and durable de­sign rather than their look un­til re­cent years when it sud­denly be­came a glob­ally pop­u­lar shoe wear.

The shoe’s suc­cess over­seas should be cred­ited to French busi­ness­man Pa­trice Bas­tian. In 2006, he reg­is­tered his own com­pany in France and be­gan sell­ing ver­sions of the sneak­ers made from higher qual­ity ma­te­ri­als. This is also why, for many over­seas buy­ers today, Feiyue is rec­og­nized more as a French brand than a Chi­nese one.

How­ever, the re­la­tion- ship be­tween the Chi­nese and French com­pa­nies is not en­tirely friendly. Ac­cord­ing to a re­port by the Hong Kong-based South China Morn­ing Post in Fe­bru­ary, the two com­pa­nies are locked in a le­gal dis­pute con­cern­ing the le­git­i­mate use of the Feiyue trade­mark.

The Chi­nese brand has ben­e­fited from in­creased ex­po­sure over­seas. For­eign celebri­ties’ in­creas­ing passion for the shoes seems to have rekin­dled in­ter­est in the brand among young Chi­nese.

“I never imag­ined that the ugly run­ning shoe that I once dis­liked so much would one day be­come fash­ion­able,” Su Jin, a 26-year-old Beijing-based fash­ion lover, told the Global Times.

“But now that it has be­come the new­est street fash­ion, I re­cently bought sev­eral Feiyue shoes, both clas­sic and new ones, to give them a try. And guess what? They re­ally go well with ev­ery­thing from sports­wear to jack­ets,” she said.

“The only is­sue has been that some­times my mom thinks I’m wear­ing my dirty old sneak­ers and asks me to take them off.”

Head­ing over­seas

Feiyue is not the only Chi­nese brand to gain suc­cess over­seas, the coun­try’s 70-yearold sneaker brand War­rior is also mak­ing waves.

Its clas­sic red-striped model, once a must-have for main­land school stu­dents tak­ing PE and ath­letes dur­ing the 1980s and 1990s, was re­cently spot­ted be­ing worn by Chi­nese pop icons such as Yang Mi and Wang Yibo and Dan­ish model Caro­line Brasch Nielsen who was pho­tographed wear­ing a pair of white-and-red War­riors while walk­ing down the street.

Chi­nese singer, ac­tor and former EXO mem­ber Kris Wu was also seen wear­ing a pair of white-and-red War­riors dur­ing a 2016 press event while clad in a black sports out­fit.

When Cé­line de­buted a War­rior look-a-like at its 2017 Spring/Sum­mer Col­lec­tion this year, the move sparked dis­cus­sion on­line among Chi­nese fash­ion lovers about whether it is worth­while to spend 420 eu­ros ($489) to buy the Cé­line ver­sions when you could spend a few dozen yuan on a pair of War­riors and be just as fash­ion­able.

“My first im­pres­sion is that they [the Cé­line sneak­ers] look ex­actly the same as War­rior shoes,” com­mented Sina Weibo user Joey­a­cap.

“But I will go with War­rior, they look bet­ter.”

Ac­cord­ing to an SCMP re­port on Oc­to­ber 13, War­rior re­cently launched re­fined edi­tions of its two clas­sic sneaker mod­els. The launch cam­paign for this WOS33 (War­rior Or­di­nary Streetwear 33) brand sneak­ers was shot by Los An­ge­les-based pho­tog­ra­pher Emanuele D’An­gelo.

The re­launch, ap­par­ently the brand’s new move to tap into the over­seas mar­ket, was also re­ported by over­seas fash­ion news out­lets such as WWD and Hype­beast.

While the shoes are priced at 70 yuan on main­land sites, the re­fined mod­els are re­tail­ing for 70 eu­ros over­seas WOS33.

“How­ever ex­pen­sive or trendy War­rior may ap­pear to the fash­ion lovers now, to me they will al­ways be the same old pair of shoes I used to wear for a soccer match af­ter class and now wear af­ter work,” said 24-year-old Guangzhoubased of­fice worker sur­named Zhang. “They are hum­ble yet ir­re­place­able.”

Photo: VCG

Bri­tish model Poppy Delev­ingne wears a pair of Feiyue in June.

Photo: IC

Chi­nese ac­tress Yang Mi wears a pair of War­rior brand sneak­ers in 2016.

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