How One Designer Is Making Shoes That Get Better With Age

Making environmentally conscious shopping decisions in today’s retail landscape isn’t as easy as it should be. With Earth Day, April 22, right around the corner, we’re paying a daily homage to notable up-and-coming labels that are rooting their ethos and manufacturing processes in creating sustainable products.

The first box we should all be checking off when it comes to conscious shopping is whether a product is built for longevity. Making more ethical shopping decisions means stripping down our need to acquire more and prolonging our wardrobe by opting for a pared down, selective sense of style. At the core of eco-friendly shopping is the minimalistic idea that filling a closet with more classic pieces means needing to consume less trend-driven product.

For footwear designer Tull Price, that’s exactly the ethos he’s rooted in his now 13-year-old brand FEIT. By cutting out the “bells and whistles” of quick turnover trends, Price can focus on timeless designs that have a longer shelf life for consumers and that are created through a simpler, more environmentally-minded process. But don’t be fooled into assuming simple and classic is synonymous with “basics” and “essentials.” Taking an elegant approach to design, FEIT’s products, from shearling-lined mules to strappy sandals and bucket bags, are every bit as relevant as its wider competition. Plus, you can buy them all without having to figure out what their resale price will be three months from now.

Below, we talked to Price about building his business, why it’s important for brands to focus on sustainability, and what consumers should think about when buying products.

You’ve had an extensive career in the footwear industry — what eventually led you to create and launch FEIT?
“The 10 or so years prior to starting FEIT I spent building a fashion athletic footwear company. As the business grew, especially towards the end and as it got up to producing almost one million pairs of shoes per year, I started asking myself where is all this cheap synthetic material we are using going? How much oil and energy are they taking to create? Considering we were one the small guys — what about the impact from all the big brands? And of course, in the end we know where it all ends up, as landfill or plastic in the ocean.”

What gaps in the footwear industry, and the fashion industry as a whole, were you setting to fill with your brand?
“At the time I launched FEIT there was not much synergy between luxury and sport, bespoke and sport, and no one was creating a luxury product with a sustainable edge. True handmade (while the word is used a lot) was — and is — actually dying. I wanted to revive it in a modern contemporary form, which meant bespoke with some athletic influences and all natural materials.”

Have there been any unanticipated difficulties with starting a sustainably conscious brand versus a less ethically minded brand?
“Absolutely, it makes the task for more challenging. I limit myself to 100% natural materials and truly doing things by hand, hence using less energy in the creation and execution of our products. This makes design firm and limited, and resources for more scarce. For example, if we desire a business to grow we need to go out and find or train people in the traditional art of hand sewing shoes.”

FEIT’s designs fall into the minimalistic style we’ve seen evolving for some time. With many sustainable brands labelling themselves as minimalist, do you see a tie between minimalism and sustainability?
“FEIT products stand the test of time and age beautifully, and kept, if maintained for a lifetime. Think of it like a beautiful peace of mid-century furniture, like a Wagner wooden chair. There is no cost efficiency to our minimal designs, our designs don’t need to be anything more than minimal as we are using high-quality materials and high-quality constructions to create the products’ beauty. No bells, no whistles, no shiny logos, no ‘make-up’ to entice the customers. It’s actually those tricks that are cheap to execute and gain a high return from unassuming customers.”

What’s your ultimate goal for consumers who purchase your products?
“Our ultimate goal is for customers to feel a deeper connection with our products than something mass produced. When you own a FEIT product you can feel the difference and the time, skill, effort, and craft that has gone into creating the product, and the earth from which the materials came. They experience this to a certain degree (as the product is all natural and made by a human). The product is alive, it shapes itself around their feet and takes on the distinct marks of their environment. One’s hiking boots lived in and worn in New York will age and color very differently from those living in Los Angeles.”

How have your product offerings expanded since first launching the brand?
“Initially we started as a purely men’s line however over time we received more and more requests from women wanting FEIT products. So we naturally started to size down our men’s styles into women’s sizes and lasts. As the women’s demand grew we started making FEIT’s version of iconic silhouettes we love. Today, the women’s line is half our business and spans from our classic men’s silhouettes, to even a little mid heel coming soon.”

Click HERE to read more from Refinery29


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