From the moment China opened up to the rest of the world and capitalism started to bloom as readily and easily as chrysanthemums, Chinese kitsch in the form of wound-up clocks, tin toys, and Mao busts took hold of the imagination of collectors who fear that modernisation may terminate the life of these less-sophisticated Sino aesthetic expressions. While much of these items found their way into homes to sit amid more modern collectibles, hardly anything ended up in our wardrobe. This was to change when Fei Yue shoes from Shanghai was taken up by a French distributor who turned the brand global in 2006. Suddenly canvas sneakers that remind you of those worn to countryside primary schools became the rage.
Fei Yue’s success (better marked by its current collaboration with Unholy Matrimony by Bret Westfall, who had worked on projects with CDG), prompted other heritage Chinese shoe brands to offer canvas sneakers that are clearly from a China of a very different era. The latest to win the hearts of old-school sneaker fans is Shu Long, or ‘Comfortable Dragon’ in Mandarin.
Shu Long canvas shoes, in terms of design, are not so different from Fei Yue. Both have cotton canvas uppers with rubber soles. The former, however, have a cleaner upper, sporting only the Chinese characters of the brand, positioned discreetly on the back-side corner of the shoe (Fei Yue’s bear the brand’s name and double less-than or greater-than symbols.). The soles in contrasting bubblegum colours make Shu Long sneakers a lot more fun to wear.
Fei Yue first appeared in Bangkok some time in the second half of last year at the premium jeans store Pronto. Few Thais took a shine to them, thinking they look like they belong to Chatuchak. So it was surprising to see Shu Long introduced at The Adjective a week ago. But seeing that The Adjective has dedicated fairly large selling space to the sneakers, with stocks that come in a wide selection of sole colours, the later entry may be the winner.
Shu Long ShuStreet Low canvas sneakers (pictured) retail for 1,690 baht.