For Patrice Bastian, a good story is important.
The creative director of Feiyue (pronounced “fay-u-way”) believes it will be an essential part of his label’s future success in the U.S. as he introduces the sneaker brand to American audiences this spring.
“Feiyue has a very strong advantage in term of history, heritage and products,” said the Frenchman. “People want something different, with a different story and a different approach.”
The brand certainly has a unique identity. It originated in Shanghai in the 1920s and gained popularity as a martial arts shoe. Then, in 2005, while living in Asia, Bastian became enamored of Feiyue’s white vulcanized shoes. A die-hard sneaker collector, he traveled to the factory to buy his own lifetime supply — and ended up making a bid to buy the brand (with partners Nicolas Seguy and Clement Fauth). Bastian sold his personal stash of 300-plus Nikes and other kicks to finance the purchase.
Though the men had little experience in the footwear business (Bastian previously was creative director for an events company), they quickly gained a fashion following for Feiyue through collaborations with brands such as Céline, Agnès B and, most recently, Milk on the Rocks. Up next is a spring collection with French brand Bonton, followed by a collab later this year with South Korean retailer Folder.
Bastian noted that storytelling also was a key element that led to his firm’s recent partnership with BBC International and its CEO, Bob Campbell, a longtime fan of the shoes. The two companies signed an acquisition deal in August for an undisclosed amount and have been busy crafting new product lines and expanding distribution. Starting this spring, the brand will be stocked at Nordstrom and key independents such as The Tannery in Boston.
“We’re already meeting some amazing clients who believe in the brand and the story,” said Bastian. “It’s a very good beginning for us.”
Here, Bastian reveals how Feiyue entered this new stage in its history and where it will go next.
Why did you decide to team up with BBC?
PB: We were not from this industry, and what we’ve done with the brand was great in France, but we realized after a few years that we had a lack of experience in many aspects of the business. So we had to find a partner with whom we could share our experience and then get help where we are not efficient enough to become a global brand. We knew from the beginning that BBC was a great company with great scale and experience in the shoe industry, especially kids’. And we knew it was a very strong company that could help us expand into the U.S. and global markets. It was only a question of if they would be interested in our brand — and if the people would match with us.
How did that first meeting go?
PB: A few years before we met, Bob Campbell had had a crush on this brand, like we did. When we met, we matched perfectly, both telling a story about falling in love [with Feiyue]. It was a good meeting. I’m the creative guy in the business, so I’m much more about feeling, and for me that’s what was important. We said we liked each other, and then things went quite fast. Once we realized we were on the same page, our first concern was to start as soon as possible.
How has the business changed since you started working together?
PB: The way we work now is a little bit different, but what changed most for us is that we have the possibility to enter some new markets, which is amazing for us. Before, we were in France and Europe. Now, we are working much more with Hong Kong, and we are going to work with Japan and South Korea, and of course in the U.S.
Has your role changed?
PB: Not really. I’m still the creative director, working with all the marketing and creative teams and on the product. My time now is more focused on that. In the past, we were a smaller team. The organization was different, so all of us had to be more flexible. Before, I was doing my job plus a lot of other things, where I was maybe not that proficient. Now, I am happy because I can focus on where I am the best.
What are your plans for the collection?
PB: [This spring], with the help of BBC, we have been able to create specific collections for specific genders. In the past, we were not that segmented. We had one unisex collection for adults and one for kids. For the first time we have a women’s collection and a men’s collection, and for kids, we have three segments: youth, toddler and layette. That is all new for Feiyue.