Fei Yue shoes: It finally happened

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feiyue shoes
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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It's already happened. I was in Hong Kong sneaker shopping(I happen to like footwear from one or two of the large manufacturers, myself) when I saw a Feiyue display at the Marathon Sports in Pacific Place/Hong Kong. Seeing the higher quality, nicer finishing on the Feiyues than the ones I bought in Shanghai, I flipped over the shoe to see the price . . .520 HKD.


I mean they were nicer, but I paid 24 RMB for my two pairs - they weren't THAT much nicer.

520 HKD! Ouch.


They will be the ones I just bought for 50 at Culture Matters. They have the red circle on the sole and jumbo lettering.

Previous to the latest move, most export only custom models were still the same basic shoe but now they have adopted the thicker sole 'better quality' version. And upped the price way, way over the actual cost of an unnecessary change.

But believe me, this change has been largely facilitated by the actions I describe in the post.

I guess I (and you) wouldn't mind so much if they just did two tiers - 520 HKD verisons for foreign hipsters and Orlando Bloom and 25 RMB for people who actually live in Shanghai.

Actually, when I first moved to China in 1997, I used to play football in a pair of ThreeBall boots I bought in Guangzhou. Those made Feiyue's look like Yuppie shoes, as I bought my pair for 9 RMB.

"Those made Feiyue's look like Yuppie shoes"

They make Feiyues look like yuppie shoes may have to become the phrase of 2010, put into general use for anything cheap.

I've already adopted it. Used it three times, now it's mine.

Shorthand it to simply yuppie shoes and use that to describe anything stupidly overpriced, as in 'Dude, that's yuppie shoes'.

I think it's sickening when young 'creatives' start 'brands' of street clothes and then charge LV prices for them. It exposes the fact that they're just exploiting it and don't care about the culture at all.

I remember when Skateboarding was in a rut in the early 90's and then the riders turned it around by starting their own labels for boards and clothes. The idea was to have the things we wanted, done right and not at stupid exploitative prices. Indie shops and label were immediately supported because it was a true community. Then it caught on and suddenly scallys and ravers were all wearing Airwalks and stuff. There was even a tee put out which said "If you don't skate then don't wear our f*cking clothes"

It was mildly controversial when Nike stared sponsoring a team and putting out skate shoes a few years back but kids here love it. The last time I skated Xu Jia Hui park, before they benched off the area, half the Gift ams were using Nike SB shoes.

I hate the way sports clothing companies have gone too. In the 80's in Liverpool, people wore tracksuits and sweatshirts from companies like Adidas for two reasons. Sports was the main culture for working class people and it was a kind of a cheap basic. These days I have to go around twenty stores to find the classic sweat with no pictures or large logos at the basic price. And it was almost definitely made in outrageous labor conditions too.

Simple sports wear was like poor urban fashion back then. Now it's just another huge brand.

When is someone going to start a street clothing label which is fair trade and at sanity prices?

Surely Shanghai's over inflated cost of living is hitting the point where young people who want good stuff will click onto the idea of doing it themselves - but in a kind of co-op style.

Hear, hear - and ugh indeed.

Why must everything be "branded"? And why must everything "branded" be expensive?

Some of the best sellers this winter have been cheap, well-made, staples that are not recognizably branded. There is a demand there, and business success to be had from meeting it.

From what I can tell from their website, http://www.feiyue-shoes.com/pages_en/historique.cfm, it appears that Feiyue was at least partially acquired by a French investor, which predicated its transformation into a "fashion brand" (sigh).

I'd suggest emailing their corporate office lobbying to keep the original classic, cheap sneaker. Without the heritage shoe, they're just another crappy Converse wannabe. Keep Feiyue Feiyue. contact@feiyue-shoes.com

As Shanghai residents, there's always Eno: http://www.eno.cn/zh/

Ok, it's not Feiyue cheap, but they use local artists.

There's a bit on the French dude who acquired the rights here. As far as I understood it, he acquired the rights to the international sales only. The point (I think) Andy is making is that now the local producers have cottoned on to the prices he's charging abroad and have decided to do the same here now.

It sucks. The originals with the green triangles on the bottom of the best - the sole didn't need changing, that was the whole point of the shoe! Anyway, you can't blame them for wanting to get a slice of the money the French guy is making, given that they designed the things originally, but if it means they're doing away with the "second tier" originals then that's rubbish. Terrence is right, two tiers wouldn't be so bad.

And yeah, "yuppie shoes" is my new favourite phrase

of the best = are the best


Holy stream of consciousness. Um, what?

Note from Andy: this comment refers to spam which I just deleted, Zack is quite sane :)

Do you like the you tube videos about this stuff?

I was thinking about getting the high tops that just came out from these guys but have reconsidered after reading this. Good post. This whole thing just stinks of gimmicky bullshit and selfish bastards.

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This page contains a single entry by Andy Best published on February 23, 2010 10:57 AM.

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