Track and field Olympian Allyson Felix and her business partner and brother, Wes — cofounders of Saysh — have opened a shop at Platform, the Culver City, Calif. shopping and dining complex, near their hometown of Los Angeles.
“It was really important for us to have a physical space,” said Felix. “Being a new brand, we want people to be able to really experience what it’s about, to be able to come in and feel the product, and even more so, [meet] the community.”
They’ve called it Home of Saysh, aiming to unite their followers, largely women, by hosting dinners, workshops, events — Megan Roup of the Sculpt Society is leading a fitness class tonight — and encouraging conversation. They plan to bring in thought leaders in various fields to lead talks and address topics impacting women.
“We want the programming to be really thoughtful and intentional and diverse,” said Katie Crown, head of collective at Saysh, from discussions on motherhood to wellness.
“It is really important for us that it feels like home,” added Bernise Wong, Saysh’s head of brand.
The 617-square-foot space is influenced by the minimalism of art galleries and studios, explained Wong, as envisioned by L.A.-based architect and interior designer Gabriel Chan. With its hanging drapes, foliage and stones from the beach and soft blues, grays and neutrals, it also evokes warmth and calm, drawing inspiration from the California coast. In the center, a table is suspended from the ceiling — symbolizing the community-building purpose behind the lifestyle brand.
Launched in June, Felix unveiled the label’s first product, Saysh One, a $150 sneaker made for women, at the Tokyo Olympics (where she won her 11th medal, making her — with seven Olympic gold medals and three silver — the most decorated American track and field athlete in the history of the international competition). To date, the 35-year-old, who’s a mother to a toddler, has won 25 global medals at the Olympics and World Championships.
“I was in a spot where I needed footwear for the Olympics, and I was just so tired and frustrated with constantly asking for change, and here was an opportunity to create it,” Felix said of developing the sneaker. Constructed for everyday wear, the lightweight design is specifically sculpted to fit the form of a female foot.
“Sneakers aren’t made for women,” said Wes. “When you go back to the very beginning of how a shoe is made, it’s built on a mold, and those molds are based on men’s feet.…It’s not a new concept. That’s probably what’s most frustrating. We didn’t create anything new. They’re there. They’re just not used.…It’s brands looking for ways to save money.”
With Saysh, the goal is to create meaning behind their goods. They have four more silhouettes of sneakers dropping next year on their website, revealed Wes. And they’ve launched a membership program, costing $10 a month or $150 annually.
“If you go the annual round, it comes with a gift card, a $150 gift card, the value of our shoe,” said Wes. “And what we’re trying to do there is really help our members understand that we want you to be a part of this. We’re not creating the membership model so that we can profit off of you. That’s not the goal of it. The goal is to really create an intimate group where you can feel safe and really feel seen.”
At the root of the Saysh community (there are 116,000 people following the brand on Instagram) is the Allyson Felix fan, many of them women who personally connected with her New York Times opinion piece. Published in May 2019, the article detailed the pay cut and lack of protection Felix received from her longtime former sponsor Nike during and after her pregnancy. (Nike has since announced a new maternity policy for its sponsored athletes.)
Creating Saysh originates from the experience with Nike, said Wes, “that feeling of being overlooked and not being seen. Allyson felt that as a sponsored athlete, but also, you know, with us being business partners and me managing her career, a lot of the interface with them directly was me. I was who was speaking to them directly, and it was discouraging, overwhelming feelings of defeat, like you just don’t matter to talk to a brand about something that feels so important.”
In the end, they felt “proud” to have created real change for women within the athletic world, “and finding our voice, but then we realized there was more work to be done.”
“It’s been really incredible to see,” Felix said of the Saysh community forming. She received an “outpouring” of messages of support after sharing her story.
“Just the flood of women, I think it was both amazing to have the encouragement and inspiring, but also heartbreaking that so many women identified with what I had been through and have their own stories to tell,” she continued. “And so, the Saysh collective, seeing those women come together and want to create change and for us to be able to offer them something is really special.”