A Conversation With - Tull Price
A brand founded on principles, FEIT has garnered a loyal army of fans who stand behind its purist perspective and devotion to the ethics of hand made footwear. We caught up with founder Tull Price to chat about his journey and the brands new store in San Francisco /
Congrats on the new store Tull, can you tell us a bit more about your history in footwear prior to FEIT and how it lead you to starting the brand.
In 1996 I was fascinated with the idea of globalization, and how one could talk to youth globally through a single graphic language. I also wanted to travel the world without the expense. Hence, at age 20 I started a company called Royal Elastics which was focused on creating footwear for the world’s youth, based mainly on style over performance. The main focus and belief was that all fashion athletic-style footwear should and one day be laceless. After ten years of building Royal Elastics—and producing close to one million pairs of shoes a year—I began to see the shortcomings of the business model. Reliance on growth was fuelled by volume and price, and therefore required greater use of oil-based synthetic materials (which were harmful to the planet), and automation which was replacing jobs. I felt there needed to be a better way. I had already had built a decent knowledge about manufacturing of athletic footwear so I started spending time researching the history of footwear manufacturing by hand and machine, specifically in Italy. I thought by looking backwards it may help me understand what I needed to move forward. That led me to the idea of FEIT, and gave me the knowledge of how to build `an uncompromised product that creates the best experience for the wearer.
The new store has a very tonal palette, what were the starting points for the design and how did the creative process evolve? What were the key references?
FEIT is more often than not a practice in restraint. Allowing less to do more. Hence the simplicity of the designs and palette—be it product or interior. I always loved the set-up and layout of Chinese medicine stores. That fused with traditional shoe shops have always been the starting point in developing store concepts. Our first store was designed and built in Sydney, Australia. For our U.S. stores I was lucky to have a friend, Jordana Maisie, who I respected as an artist and was finalizing a masters in architecture in New York at the time when we were opening our Prince Street flagship. We decided to work together to update our initial vision and feel. The process was very collaborative. The main focus was taking an old idea and updating it to fit FEIT’s future vision. Aligning the store design and build-out with the core values of FEIT, with a high level of craft and use of natural materials.
Where do you look for interior inspiration? What countries and environments make an impact on your mental
I believe it’s a combination of the environments from which I grew up in. Growing up in Israel I think gave me a desire for depth, and things that are rich and tactile, due to its long and ancient history. Australia gave me optimism, ease and a desire for open spaces and natural light. Then personally—I’m a minimalist. I like clean lines, so naturally I lean towards the simplicity of Japanese and Scandinavian design from the 50s onward.
How does this new San Francisco store differ from the two New York City stores?
This is the first U.S. store where we have had the type of space, size, and shape we really wanted. The New York stores were tighter and not perfect squares or rectangles, which in turn affected the design. This concept was more of a return to our initial vision—akin to what we did in Sydney—with the focus on service and seating, providing the customer an engaged, uninterrupted experience.
Given your stance on consumerism and the current focus on climate change and mass consumption, how can brands be doing more to address these issues regardless of size?
Firstly, profit cannot be the only, main or greatly outweighing goal, there needs to be balance. Secondly, remain private. That way you don’t have the same pressure to grow, it’s not just a “how do we increase our numbers?” game. Thirdly, I guess make a quality product and work to close the loop, i.e. take products back and find a safe way of managing waste. All that said, I feel it’s pretty futile trying to work these things from the top down. It has to come and keep coming from the bottom up. I see this happening in two ways. First, people becoming more educated, demanding more transparency—the right transparency—and debunking marketing that poses as social, planetary benefit. Second, let’s face it, people simply need to become aware that they don’t need so much stuff. Consume less.
I feel the industry is at another major shift or tilting point. The domination of street wear and OTT logo driven fashion has finally seemed to hit its downward slide. And as the shift toward a new more considered, toned down and elegant way of dressing begins to formulate, how does FEIT fit into this evolving eco system?
I’m glad to hear you say that, and that people are starting to see and feel what I have been feeling for the last decade. FEIT has no branding on the outside of the product. Its qualities are inherent: known to the user but not screaming to others. This is where we always have been and where we will remain. Our contemporaries appreciate design and quality and don’t feel the need to amplify it.
Do you have plans to broaden the range outside of footwear?
We are starting to make a few small support pieces, hand-made small leather goods made in Italy and soft accessories made in Japan. Slowly, we are going to start introducing some key pieces of clothing. Mainly, I am working to find makers who are the best at what they do, who hand make products using natural materials, or find ways to have collaborate to work more with natural materials.