After a much-publicized fallout with Nike in 2017 (when the brand failed to provide maternity protections during her pregnancy), Allyson Felix found herself without shoes to run in. But instead of seeking out a new mega sponsor, the Olympic track and field athlete realized there was an opportunity for to create her own brand. So came Saysh (named after “seiche,” the phenomenon of a standing wave in an enclosed body of water) and with it the chance to rewrite some of the rules of the male-dominated athletic footwear world.
During the athlete’s FN cover shoot in honor or her Launch of the Year award at the 2021 Footwear News Achievement Awards, Felix opened up in a video interview on all of the steps that she has taken so far to create Saysh and the brand’s Saysh One sneaker.
For Felix, the biggest surprise of the process was discovering how few women were behind the creation of the shoes she had worn in the past.
“I didn’t know that there was such a huge issue with women not being involved in the process of making shoes,” said Felix. “As a professional runner, [to know that] the shoes I’m wearing are not made for women, that’s crazy. How is that still happening? So it was very intentional that a woman would engineer the shoe, that our designer would be a woman. When you look on the tongue, you see Tiffany’s signature, you see Natalie Candrian, our designer’s signature. You see my signature.”
The Olympian also spoke of the importance of seeing women — and women of color as entrepreneurs.
“When we thought of starting Saysh, [I wondered], why do I believe that this is not possible?” said Felix. “I think one of the answers was that I never saw it growing up. People where me and Wes are from, they don’t start companies. We didn’t have friends whose parents had companies. So I think more founders of color, more women founders — it’s so important to see that in action and to have people at the table who not only are there but who have a voice and are decision makers. That’s a great place to start — and giving more people opportunities. I want [Saysh] to be a place where women and women of color can grow their careers. Obviously, there’s a lot to be done, but I just think about these as things we can do.”
For more on how Felix launched her brand Saysh, tune in here.