BBC Inks Deal for Sneaker Brand

PHILADELPHIA — BBC International LLC just got even bigger.

The Boca Raton, Fla.-based footwear firm has acquired vulcanized sneaker brand Feiyue for an undisclosed amount. Updated men’s, women’s and children’s collections will be introduced globally for spring ’15.

“We’ve wanted to get into the better vulcanized business for some time, and this is a perfect match for us,” BBC Chairman and CEO Bob Campbell said of the brand, which originated in Shanghai in the 1920s and was relaunched by a group of French entrepreneurs in 2006.

Campbell said his first experience with Feiyue, which means “flying forward” in Mandarin, was as a consumer.

“I walked into a men’s clothing store in Southampton, N.Y., saw the shoes and thought, ‘Wow, those are fresh and different,’” he said. “They were very cool and fashionable, and every time I wore them, I had people asking about them. So I approached the owners about buying the business.”

Building on the existing DNA of the brand, BBC has developed an extensive new collection featuring fashion-forward styling, updated silhouettes, and premium materials such as leather and skins. “We’ve elevated it, given it a fresh approach,” Campbell said. “We showed the line to European retailers for the first time [recently], and the reception was overwhelming. People are excited about the direction we’ve taken with the product. It doesn’t look like anything else out there.”

Campbell said Feiyue’s unique aesthetic and heritage set it apart from other premium brands of its kind in the market. “Feiyue is the oldest vulcanized shoe made in China, so there is a lot of history there,” he said, noting the brand’s lightweight, flexible shoes began as a staple for martial arts and other sports and then gained popularity as a casual fashion item. “We’ve taken the original, classic construction and evolved it and reinterpreted it.”

Distribution for the line, which starts at $49 for kids’ looks and caps at around $150 for leather women’s styles, will target better independents, specialty retailers and department stores. Feiyue shoes are already sold by a small number of U.S. retailers, among them J.Crew, which discovered the brand and placed orders at overseas trade shows. However, spring ’15 marks the first season that Feiyue will have a dedicated sales operation for the U.S. market. Cynethia Ali, who has worked for Nine West, Sam Edelman and Jimlar, has been hired as U.S. brand manager, overseeing men’s and women’s sales.

BBC also plans to broaden the brand’s distribution internationally. Feiyue’s previous owners sold the line throughout France and recently expanded it into South Korea and South Africa, but Campbell sees more far-reaching potential. “We’re going to grow it everywhere and build more exposure on a global basis,” he said.

To boost brand recognition, BBC is planning a major marketing push, though specifics have yet to be finalized. “We’re working on a plan now. Collaborations are one idea we’re looking at,” Campbell noted. In the past, Feiyue has collaborated with Milk on the Rocks, Agnès B. and Céline, among other brands.

For BBC, which licenses most of the brands in its stable, the Feiyue acquisition marks a new direction for the firm.

“We wanted to own something and have total control,” Campbell said, hinting at additional acquisitions in the future. “We love the licensing business, but this is another avenue for us to explore and diversify while complementing what we’re doing in licensing. We feel we’re well-positioned for this now.”

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