They're the sneaker of choice for Shaolin Monks and Parisian parkourists, the kicks seen in indy band Foster the People's "Pumped Up Kicks" video, and a hipster favorite in Beijing, but Feiyue's shoes are just now catching on in earnest with American connoisseurs. The 90-year-old Chinese brand is blossoming into a global behemoth thanks to a combination of street cred – prominent Communist Party members and China's national soccer team are frequently spotted in them – and quality construction. "Made in China," often a negative, is anything but when it comes to these shoes.
In 2005, Frenchman Patrice Bastian, an avid sneaker collector, stumbled upon a pair of shoes made by Feiyue, which means "flying forward," on a Shanghai street and moved to launch the brand abroad. Updated models appeared in France in 2006 with thicker canvas, better quality, and evolving looks – high-tops, women's styles, a kids collection – but the designers have tried to remain loyal to the shoe’s original style, a low profile canvas body featuring a minimalist double-arrow logo.
Bastian's tweaks worked. Feiyue's popularity has grown so much that a branded sneaker, which not long ago cost a few bucks in China, now sells for as much $120 online.
"Feiyue is often inspired by the past, reinterpreting vintage silhouettes and bringing back to life some of the styles used decades ago," Bastian says. "In order to keep these styles updated, our design team is constantly looking for new colors, materials and techniques."
Although Feiyue has made inroads across Asia and Europe, and is pursuing the North American, Australian, and South African markets, the brand is most appealing in its rarity – sport a pair (we recommend the Deltas) in any style-obsessed city, and it won’t be long before someone asks where you got them. [From $78; feiyue-shoes.com]