“Design in China” e31 – 飞跃 Feiyue – A Story of Sneakers, Trademarks, and Globalization

Feiyue is an established sneaker brand from China whose iconic logo-bearing white sneakers are popular worldwide. However, the sneakers you see in North America or Europe aren’t actually from a China-based company. The company from China dates back to the 1920s when it was initially a rubber manufacturer. However, it began producing sneakers with rubber soles similar to the ones from today, which became popular for martial arts. The shoes were common in China for a long time as a less expensive alternative to higher-end western brands during the Mao era. Once three French entrepreneurs (Nicolas SeguyPatrice BastianClement Fauth) moved 3,000 pairs outside of China and began marketing them globally, they unintentionally became a street fashion staple.

Thanks to its classic appearance and simplistic design, Feiyue shoes, produced by a different company outside China, became popular in Europe and the US. Back in China, the original manufacturer of the shoes, DaFu, didn’t even know about the shoes being sold overseas. This happened when China was going through its economic transition and dabbing its feet into capitalism. By the time the matter reached the courts, it was too late. The French company with the same brand name had already trademarked the sneakers. The French Feiyue was later purchased by an American company specializing in designing and sourcing footwear. These days, the Chinese and American Feiyue businesses both run independently, creating somewhat different shoes. Generally, the American versions are intended for more casual use with a wider variety of colors, textures, and thicker soles. On the other hand, the Chinese counterparts are created as martial arts shoes with thinner materials for better sensitivity.

Feiyue has seen remarkable success at home. Up to 50 athletic stores in significant first- and second-tier Chinese cities currently carry the brand. Moreover, a wide number of styles at an affordable range of price points have been introduced in an effort to appeal to varied demographics. In addition, Shanghai Shenglong Shoes Co Ltd, the brand’s official manufacturer and distributor, has expanded its reach by taking advantage of the burgeoning Chinese e-commerce sector. Over half a million of its shoes are sold via online channels. Kung fu and street artists have long favored the Chinese footwear company. In contrast, the other Feiyue brand had had partnerships with Agnès B, Casio, Snoopy, Céline and American Funk/Soul music label Ubiquity Records. Feiyue’s fame grew due to the collection’s success with customers and fashion reviewers.

The brand has made a name for itself as a company prioritizing authenticity, simplicity, and originality by working with artists and designers and growing a following of devoted customers on social media. The brand’s popularity and exposure have been further enhanced by celebrities.

Feiyue’s story has been an insight into the importance of intellectual property, trademarks, and patent laws. The sneaker’s success in the West under the then-French and now-American-owned brand is a glimpse into what it could have been like for the original brand of shoes from China.

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