Saya Fukuda is a fully certified fashionista. Born in Japan, sunny, stylish Fukuda lived in Hong Kong before taking the plunge to attend NYC’s Parsons School of Design. Already having worked as a stylist (and choreographer!!) for MTV in Japan, Fukuda hoped her journey to the Big Apple would catapult her into a career—and it did.
Now, Fukuda is at the helm of Sand by Saya, a fun, chic flip-flop company, centered on adorable sandals encrusted with sparkling jewels and flirty designs. SBS talked to Fukuda about the sandals your feet will love (when they’re not in Sticky Be Socks!) and her top travel tips.
SBS: How was Sand by Saya born?
Saya Fukuda: One super hot summer day, I saw a bunch of girls wearing high-end designer dresses with flip-flops. So many stylish New Yorkers like to wear them with cool outfits, but finding comfortable, designer options was harder than it should be. So, I wanted to create something luxurious but for people who also like things that are easy to buy—and easy to wear. I saw a niche, and since I was already good at beading and small details, it was clearly an area appropriate to my design skills. Now, we’re at Barneys New York, department stores in Japan, Galeries Lafayette in China, and boutiques in Bora Bora, Key Biscayne and St. Martin.
SBS: How are your flip-flops unique?
SF: The materials are extremely durable, eco-friendly and light, making them easy to walk in all day. Also, I do everything made to order: We assemble each pair individually for each customer in the NYC Garment District. The whole idea is tailored, fashionable and eco-conscious.
SBS: As a new entrepreneur, what are you favorite moments as a business owner?
SF: Receiving good feedback from customers about how satisfied they are and how much they like their unique flip-flops is my biggest high. I also am so grateful when fans come to pop-up shops and want to meet the designer—me!
The hardest aspect is constantly working to improve the quality, and since NYC is so expensive, there’s no rest. Not only do I want to continue to stretch and expand conceptually, but logistically sustaining the business is also challenging. But, we’ve been at it for five years now, and it continues to blossom and become more satisfying.
SBS: What’s your advice to budding entrepreneurs?
SF: The best lesson I’ve learned is that owning your business is twofold: You must follow your passion and have something that will truly sell. Yes, you want to follow your heart, but you have to find an option people actually want to buy. And sometimes that means editing. There are some designs I love that don’t sell, and I have to maintain that the bulk of my items please customers. There’s a sweet spot where the two intersect: Find that!
Also, as an entrepreneur, I try to be über flexible to clients’ needs. I’m very sensitive to where I am in the world and the culture around me. Regardless, I’m always representing Sand with a smile: giving out cards, showing pictures of the sandals and networking. People love my passion, and that’s why I sell well. If you have great energy, others can feel that and appreciate it.
SBS: Considering you travel so much for Sand by Saya, what are your top travel tips?
SF: Make sure to sleep as much as possible! Because a lot of my client networking in Asia centers on drinking, this is especially important, as is hydration. Exercising, no matter what the time difference, also keeps your body healthy while traveling. I take online, free yoga classes so I can do it at home or in a hotel if need be. Then, for my skin, to offset the travel and hectic lifestyle, I moisturize with aromatic oils and give myself basic face massages. Sunscreen is also a must, no matter where you are.
Favorite NYC Barre Class: Kandice Pelletier’s class at FlyBarre. She was Miss New York and is a designer, as well!
Favorite Summer Travel Spots: St. Martin, Hawaii and Thailand
Favorite Summer Activity: I just started surfing, and I love going to Montauk and the Rockaways.
Favorite Sand by Saya Style: I wear the “Manhattan,” the grey wedge, the most. I also love our new collection that is embellished with crystals: It was in British Vogue, GQ and Glamour!
Favorite NYC Summer Eats Spot: Il Buco
Saya’s SBS Mantra: Be bright! As an entrepreneur, there are many problems you won’t be able to plan for. But if you’re positive and bright, you can go through this tough time well!