Chinese sneakers are making a remarkable come back on the world fashion scene with a few historical brands competing for attention. Shulong is not a historical brand but its shoes come from a long tradition of shoe making. The company has been on the market for only 3 years and Nicely Made in China wanted to know more about it. Brice Genin, Shulong general manager, accepted to talk to us to explain to our readers how Shulong mixes something old – the classic Chinese sneaker- with the new technologies to turn it into a successful product.
Brice, how did Shulong started ?
I arrived in China in 2003 with a suitcase and my CV and I held small jobs in the textile industry. When I arrived I found a pair of local sneakers and I also heard about the ones that the Shaolin monks were wearing. To make a long story short I thought it would be a good idea to set up a brand making those sneakers and I teamed up with a designer and an investor. In 2007 we created Shulong sneakers which did not exist as a brand. Our first models were on sale in France and China in March 2008.
How do you create your collections and how long does it take for a shoe to go from the design table to a customer’s feet?
Alexandre Lagneau, our designer -and one of the co-founders- comes up with ideas for the two collections – with between 80 and 120 styles for each- that we create every year. We then go to Premiere Vision show to find out what the will the trends be in the next couple of years and after that we travel to different parts of China – Shaoxing in Zhejiang province and Guangzhou mainly- to buy the fabric we’ll be using for our shoes: canvas made of bamboo and cotton, linen, denim etc…We have a few samples made in 0ur production unit near Shanghai and after a few adjustments we go into production. The whole process takes about a year.
It seems making canvas shoes (also called plimsolls) is not that easy? Can you tell us how you make the your sneakers?
Making canvas shoes is indeed quite difficult. When we began we first started by having a mould made specifically for us. Now regarding the fabrication process itself the vulcanization of the shoes is a very important moment. The quality of the rubber that comes out after those 55 minutes in the oven at 125ºc. depends on getting that right and during that process even the outside temperature is important. For instance if not properly vulcanized it can change color and we have to do it all over again.
While the shoe is in the oven the piece of rubber -we call it « the sponge »- which is between the canvas and the rubber sole fills with air bubbles to give real comfort and elasticity. It’s the traditional way of making those shoes that gave Shaolin monks their spring and that type of shoes became known as Wushu, the shoe used by martial arts fans. I would like to add that to make our shoes we follow the REACH protocol -it stands for Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemical substances. It is a set of rules established by the European Union that industries must follow.
What is it like to run a Chinese brand as a foreigner?
We’re having a fantastic time running Shulong and trying to impose it on the European market. We want to break that misconception that the Westerners have that Chinese will never be creative.
Right now Shulong’s designer is French. Can you tell us why?
For a very simple reason: right now our primary market is the European market so it makes sense to have a European designer. We are now looking for Chinese artists and graphic designers to work with as we want to launch special editions for the Chinese and European markets. Maybe Nicely Made in China can help us find those artists and designers! -at NMiC we’d be delighted to help!