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Why Allyson Felix’s Shoe Brand Is Just as Much About Community as it Is Footwear

After a public split with Nike in 2019, decorated track and field star Allyson Felix has found a new footwear home. This time, it is one she created.

The six-time Olympic gold medalist sprinter revealed her Saysh imprint in a report with Time today, a company she co-founded with her brother, Wes Felix. Saysh is described as a by women, for women imprint, which also has a strong community focus — something Wes Felix said was non-negotiable for his beloved athlete sister.

“We want to create a balance specifically for women in the footwear space, and in consumer products in general. What Allyson experienced at Nike [with the lack of maternity protections] was really hard, and because of that feeling of feeling thrown away, of feeling overlooked, it was so important to focus solely on women because we don’t want women to have that feeling, Allyson doesn’t want women to have that feeling,” Wes Felix, who is also the CEO of Saysh, explained to FN.

To get the company off the ground, Saysh was able to secure $3 million, which Wes Felix confirmed was raised through angel investors. As of now, the nascent brand employs roughly 30 people, and in the future, it will look to offer retired athletes looking for a fresh start employment opportunities.

“We’re talking with a couple former athletes just for actual jobs, working within the marketing team, working on the content team. Athletes, a lot of times when they finish their careers, they don’t feel confident as a lot of us think they would. They gave their life to something and they were extremely good at it, but then it ends and you’re 28 or 30 years old with no work experience looking for jobs. It’s something that touches a lot of our friends,” he explained.

Along with the company announcement, Felix showcased the company’s first shoe today, the Saysh One.

The look — created by renowned designers designer Natalie Candrian and Tiffany Beers — is lifestyle sneaker built to be lightweight, breathable and ideal for daily wear. To execute this, the brand created the shoe with woven jacquard textiles and microsuede on the uppers. Also, to ensure the fit is made fo the shape of the female foot, Saysh made the look with a single heel piece and a snug lacing system, which ensures it is both elegant and supportive.

Candrian told FN that the ideation process started in July 2020, which was also when they built the last from scratch. The first prototypes arrived in the fall of that year, testing began around Christmas and the first finished product was in hand by February.

The Saysh One is available for preorder now via Bysaysh.com in three colorways — blue, black and white — and comes with a $150 price tag. The shoe will ship in September.

Saysh One
The initial colorways of the Saysh One.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Saysh

Beyond footwear, the company also revealed the Saysh Collective, a membership-based community that aims to offer “connection, community and correspondence” that aligns with its mission to “undermine inequality with female creativity and athleticism.” (The preorder will also give the consumer a complimentary invitation to the Saysh Collective.)

“The collective community part is just as, if not slightly more important, than the footwear. That’s where we really connect with her, not as a customer, but really connect with her on a feeling,” Wes Felix explained. “The look in Allyson’s eyes of why Nike didn’t feel like she was worth what she felt she was worth, made her look at herself like she wasn’t worth as much as she thought. As we started building Saysh, we saw that the women on our team — a lot of them from some of these big brands — had very similar experiences, but they weren’t athletes, and they had their own stories. As Allyson heard from women who supported her when she wrote the New York Times OpEd, the stories were the same. Women don’t need more shoes, there are plenty of shoes out there. What they really need is that sense of community.”

The Saysh Collective will cost $10 a month, and the signup will include a pair of Saysh Ones, early access to future product drops and unlimited access to the community platform.

Looking ahead, West Felix confirmed that its next shoe will drop in fall ’22, although there is potential for another to release sooner, in June of next year.

“Development of [the second shoe] has already started to take off and we’re getting samples back already,” Wes Felix said. “It will be in the vein of a neo vintage-inspired lifestyle shoe, more of an everyday casual shoe, further away from a running shoe. Something we think women are looking for in this moment.”

Over the next two and a half years, Wes Felix said Saysh plans to have at least five silhouettes in the market. Also, he stated the company won’t be limited to just footwear, and that there could be apparel and accessory releases in the future.

“We’re positioning Saysh as a women’s lifestyle brand, and the first product is footwear because that makes the most sense for our community,” Wes Felix said. “We always tell the story of our community, which originally was me and Allyson, and Allyson’s need was shoes, so the community listened and came up with a solution for her needs. But as our community grows — and we really want to be rooted in community — we think that the community we built trust with will help us understand what the future products are.”

Saysh One
All of the Saysh One colorways on foot.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Saysh
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