Fei Yue shoes: It finally happened
Where to start with this?
The day has finally come.
OK. Fei Yue shoes are Shanghai made canvas shoes that are simple, affordable and have for years been the staple shoe of sports practice in the area.
It is important to point out that while they look dated to us, they are not retro. They have just stuck with the same design from the start increasing price only with inflation. There has never been a break in production or a conscious choice to keep or exploit a dated design. Retro implies that a new product is made with an intentionally dated design because it gives it a unique look. Anyone who tells you they are retro is just lying.
I came to Fei Yue shoes through kung fu clubs, starting with when I trained at the Jing Wu centre in Hong Kou from 2001. However, I don't want to add on yet another misleading association. We should think of it more like this: I came to Fei Yue shoes through playing sports at local clubs with people on working class wages. Back then a pair was less than twenty CNY and now they fall somewhere between twenty-five and twenty-eight. That's fairly restrained when you look at other indicators for the same period.
I don't like to think of Fei Yue's as cheap exactly. I think of them more as sane. They are locally made and don't feature by products of the meat/factory farming industries. This accounts for low prices and gives them the bonus of being the greenest shoes you can buy here. All this in a world where large shoe companies continually find nasty ways to keep their costs at all time lows while charging more and more to the customer.
Now for the next chapter. For a while and from many different sources, Fei Yue have been the target of unscrupulous entrepreneurs whose eyes lit up with dollar signs when they saw the cheap prices. Some connections were fairly obvious, like the kung fu connection. People who trained kung fu here and found them to be cheap and practical started importing them to their club after returning home. In the early days though, this was considered no more than a sideline to the Fei Yue factory. A lot of that, you may be surprised to know, was with Japan. Next up though were those who wanted to resell them as a kind of designer retro brand and make big money from it.
As soon as this happened the first time, a few years ago now and still kung fu themed with custom versions called shaolin and mantis, I could see the future. These guys were selling them overseas for upwards of 200 Euros. That's right, more than sixty times the Shanghai price. For a start. It's simply a microcosm of gentrification or any kind of yuppie plague. Come in on some cheap land or product and exploit it, eventually driving prices up and cutting out the original users who can't afford the new prices. Those working class wage people, you know, the majority.
As a relevant aside here, my high street real estate agent was firebombed by Welsh activists for the same thing. That time involving holiday homes in North Wales.
The problem, or tipping point, was obviously going to come when these re-brands started to catch on or be available in Shanghai itself. Even that was going to be tolerable as long as you could still dismiss the whole ridiculous situation by just buying them from local shops for true prices.
So. Here's the news. And this comes from three sources. My friends in the kung fu clubs who order direct, my local branch of East Sports (Dongfang tiyu) and Culture Matters on Dongping Road. The original design pictured above with the green triangle in the bottom are now no longer being made. Once they run out, they are out. The staple shoe of Fei Yue is now being replaced with the red circle in the sole model. It looks basically the same but has a thicker sole and supposedly better quality laces. This is taken directly from their export model.
The result - an immediate doubling of the starting retail price to over 50 CNY.
Who knows where it will go from here. That's Shanghai just ran a huge cover feature on Chinese retro brands, predictably free from any kind of analysis or wider context. I personally think it's a sign that the last vestiges of sane cheaper living in downtown Shanghai are going. Not that there's much left.
I just want to mark this occasion with a message to all of those who participated in the gentrification of my shoes. From the people who took Fei Yue's and re marketed them as a retro brand at sky high new prices to the writers and blogs who big upped these new brands ... ...
f*ck you all, there are people here who need those shoes to be cheap, you selfish w*nkers
End note: I have to star out all my curse words because of my spam filter. If I didn't have to, I wouldn't.
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