The respected art of the shoemaker, one who lovingly crafts a pair of shoes by hand, has been somewhat swept away by the advent of fast fashion. Following the success of his sneaker brand Royal Elastics, shoe designer Tull Price became disenchanted with the mass-produced environment of the shoe industry and gave it all up to start from scratch. He enlisted the help of his brother Josh Price and in 2005 the duo began creating artisanal men’s shoes that embodied the art of the handmade, using biodegradable Italian vegetable-tanned leathers and a natural cork footbed. With Tull now based in New York working as a footwear designer for rag & bone, Josh (pictured right) helms FEIT – pronounced ‘fight’ in reference to its battle against mass production – from the brand’s Sydney studio.
I was born … in Sydney and lived in Israel for a few years when I was very little. I spent some time in New York and Tokyo in my late teens and early twenties, and I’ve been in Sydney ever since. My brother, Tull, has pretty much been away from Sydney – in all sorts of places – since he was about 18. We had a very easy, simple, loving family. Sydney is a good place to grow up.
I think my childhood dream … was to play sport, but I was never too worried about one particular thing. I always did lots of different stuff, so I went through quite a few phases.
Tull convinced me … to join him in FEIT when he was starting it. He needed some cheap help and I’d been working as a DJ primarily at night for the best part of ten years, which gets a little difficult as you get older. So I started helping out and that’s how it began.
When we started FEIT in 2005 … it was predominantly a reaction to Tull’s experience in the shoe industry to that point. Personally, he became very detached from the production process – the part he loves – which was a bit disheartening. And he also became aware of the scale of waste that existed in the athleisure footwear industry. There was a lot of waste and pollution and it was all about these big corporations trying to meet their quarterly targets – with no consideration for what they were producing or how they were producing it. They didn’t care about the impact on the environment or the quality of the product. And that’s a big part of the reason why our company is named FEIT, because it was about getting back to a more traditional and sustainable way of producing a quality product.
Tull does the designs … and I basically run the business. But it’s a tiny business, so we all do a bit of everything – you’ve got to be at the board meeting and you’ve got to clean the toilets as well!
Our concept for the shoes … when we first started, was to do something that was halfway between a dress shoe and a sneaker. I think what makes us different is that we use traditional constructions, but Tull brings a very clean and somewhat street-like aesthetic to it. We grew up on streetwear, so it influences the design.
Early on … I was a little more concerned about getting my views across in terms of design. But after a while I realised that Tull and I would be arguing about one stitch and, regardless of which one of us won the argument, there was still going to be as many people who liked it versus didn’t like it.
I don’t think … it would have worked a few years ago, having me in Sydney and Tull in New York. But these days it works because of technology. When it’s your own business, you don’t necessarily have to fit into a nine-to-five timeframe. We talk to each other whenever – we’re brothers, so it doesn’t matter if he wants to harass me in the middle of the night or vice versa. And it just means that we have a little base in Sydney and a little base in New York. In this day and age I think it’s less about being based somewhere, although we do try to be in the same room at least a couple of times a year!
Our philosophy is always evolving … and in some ways we’ve probably gone more in the sustainable, natural direction than perhaps we thought we would. The great thing about being a small company is that we are nimble and we can react to things and we’re always learning. We’re making more products than we used to and we’re learning more about the craft and the art, and are trying to do things the way we think is best.
We call what we do ‘sustainable luxury’ because … we try to have as minimal impact on the environment as we can. We’re not pretending we’re hippies, but all our leathers are by-products of cattle farming and we use only natural materials and dyes with no chemicals in the tanning process. Everything’s made by hand, which reduces waste to a great degree and, because there are no machines, there is less of a carbon footprint. I think some people have an incorrect idea about the impact that certain materials have on the environment and, for instance, think they shouldn’t wear leather. I understand that from the point of view that an animal is being killed for the leather, but the reality is that the environmental impact of a lot of the synthetic materials that are created is massive.
If you are going to do something … it’s worth doing it well. Even though we feel like we can always improve it, we also feel like our product is of a really high quality and is really beautifully made and lasts well. That’s something we’re really proud of. At the end of the day we make something that we don’t have to pound our chests about because, hopefully when people see it or wear it or use it, that quality comes through.
Working with my brother … is really amazing. I’m really inspired by seeing what he does and how he does it. He’s really driven and tireless, and he’s definitely an expert at what he does. I see him sometimes working with people who have been doing these sorts of things for generations – and are the best people on earth at what they do – and he seems to fit right in. Even though he comes from a really different place to a lot of them and has a different sort of eye and sensibility, he manages to always have a really great connection with them.
We’re both really inspired … by the people we work with. They’re amazing at what they do and they’re really driven to do it as best they can and keep improving. Whether it’s the people in China who make everything by hand and are determined to become better at it than the Italians, or someone in Italy who does the same thing as their father and grandfather. You’ve got to be around people who inspire you because that’s what leads you to progress.And it’s not just in what they do but also their ideas – it could be friends, family or the people you work with.
I find lots of peace in life … I’m very fortunate to have great family and friends. When you run your own business, sometimes you can’t escape it and you have to answer the phone at one in the morning. But then if it’s a sunny afternoon and I’m not so busy, I can go to the beach – I really enjoy the freedom of that. You’ve also got to realise that in the end it’s just work. And that’s not to say we don’t care about it – when you have failures it really sucks – but you’ve got to keep it in perspective.
I have no wisdom … but there is a quote that I really like that says: ‘As you go through life, let this be your goal – keep your eye on the bagel and not on the hole.’