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First Person

Kick starter

While in Shanghai, Danny Danesh, 23, fell in love with Warrior sneakers. So much that he and two friends are now sole US importers of the shoes.

By Ron Fletcher
August 2, 2009

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Warrior sneakers? Absolutely. We’re talking about a cultural icon that dates back to 1930s Shanghai. They’re pretty much working-class footwear in China, but we believe they have a place in the contemporary US streetwear market.

Shanghainese 20-somethings aren’t sporting Warriors? No. They associate them with grandfathers and factory workers, but we love their simplicity, quality, and aesthetics. They’re all about Nike and Gucci right now. They’re dressing up, as we in the US are dressing down.

Is there a precedent for this sort of importing?

A French company sells a classic Kung-Fu shoe made in China, but it’s not the Warrior brand. We carry the original Warrior Kung-Fu shoe [sold locally at Bodega], plus badminton, basketball, and tennis sneakers.

Has your youthfulness been a hindrance or help to you and your two partners, Alex Fraenkel and Bobby Touran?

Both. When we first visited the Warrior factory in Shanghai and presented our plans for exporting the shoes, we were treated like kids. But Alex turned that around.

How?

Through guanxi, the Chinese concept of building relationships through time and trust. Alex and I both speak Chinese, but Alex is fluent -- and has a fine understanding of the Chinese culture. He’s in Shanghai now, and I’m sure he’s working on guanxi as we speak.

You all graduated from college recently. Did the bleak job market spur this venture? Definitely. It seemed wiser to put time into this opportunity instead of a potentially futile job search. That said, my savings are dwindling and I’m living at home.

You and Alex were childhood friends in Brookline. Anything in that foreshadow this enterprise? Badminton. We taught ourselves the game, built a court in Alex’s backyard, and played night and day. We wiped out his lawn. That was ninth grade. Now we’re selling Warrior badminton sneakers.

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