Company Has Locations In Moscow, New York, Vancouver, Tokyo
Since its inception in 1994, JNBY has sought to redefine what a home-grown Chinese fashion company can be and what it can accomplish. Spreading rapidly throughout China from its home base of Hangzhou over the course of the 1990s, fueled by the appeal of the label’s flowing dresses, soft fabrics and DIY aesthetic, in recent years JNBY has been focused on international expansion. Opening its first overseas boutique in Moscow, JNBY soon spread to Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore before kicking off a broader North American and European market expansion.
So what lies behind JNBY’s success? That’s hard to precisely pin down, but two underlying factors have undoubtedly made a contribution: speedy market entry and an understanding of its target market.
A year and a half since it opened in New York City’s Soho district, JNBY’s American flagship reflects the company’s mission to introduce contemporary Chinese style to international audiences while assimilating into its new surroundings. Recently, Jing Daily editorial assistant Tina Liu spoke with Megan Maguire Steele, JNBY’s American PR representative, about the company’s progress in the U.S. market and its strategies for drawing in New York’s fashion set.
Jing Daily (JD): Can you give us a brief introduction to JNBY? When and how was JNBY created?
Megan Maguire Steele (MMS): In 1994, JNBY Hangzhou Finery Co., Ltd. was founded. In the same year, JNBY SINCE 1994 was launched as the main line targeting the women’s market. JNBY is designed by a collective of 11 former art and design students who came together after college to design for this line. The desire to encourage individual interpretation of design as it relates to a modern lifestyle is the constant driving force of JNBY.
The JNBY design team is inspired by all aspects of culture including music, art, and architecture. JNBY’s multi-functional designs further the brand’s aim to allow for individual interpretation of their pieces.
JD: How big is JNBY’s presence outside of China?
MMS: By 2003, JNBY had 400 stores across China. In 2005, they opened their first store outside of China in Moscow, Russia. Since that time, they have continued to expand their stores across the world. In 2006, they opened stores in Tokyo and Hong Kong. In 2007, JNBY opened in Singapore, and in 2008 they opened stores in Canada and Bangkok. In 2009, JNBY launched stores in Georgia, Barcelona, and Seoul, South Korea and in 2010, JNBY opened its first store in the United States in New York City. Currently, JNBY has 600 stores across the world, the majority of which are located in China. However, international growth continues to be a primary focus for the brand.
JD: In terms of its North American distribution, JNBY has a huge presence in Canada, far more than the U.S. Why did JNBY place such an emphasis on the Canadian market as opposed to the US market?
MMS: I would not say that the presence is huge. JNBY does have four stores in Canada, compared to one store in the US. However, JNBY has been operating in Canada for several years whereas we only launched in the U.S. a year and half ago, so the growth is proportionately the same. JNBY is more focused on wholesale expansion in the US market. In contrast, their approach to the market in Canada has been more focused on opening free-standing JNBY stores.
JD: What types of opportunities are presented for Chinese fashion brands abroad, especially in the U.S. market? Are Chinese brands mature enough to spread outside of China?
MMS: The U.S. market is definitely looking towards the East. JNBY is based in Hangzhou, which is a significant source of inspiration for the design of their collections. Hangzhou has recently become an international travel destination because there’s now a high-speed train that takes travelers from Shanghai to Hangzhou in 40 minutes. In addition, The New York Times named Hangzhou one of the top places to go in 2011 and also wrote a follow up article about its growing popularity. U.S. press and designers are starting to look towards China.
Vogue China is also celebrating its local talent. The September issue of Vogue China is the “Asia” issue and JNBY has a big profile in that issue. JNBY has so much to offer in the way of the ultimate insider perspective on China’s design capabilities, and we feel this knowledge is an incredible asset in both the Chinese domestic marketplace and the international marketplace.
JD: It’s been over a year since JNBY opened its first flagship in the United States. How has it been received by American consumers?
MMS: JNBY has been well-received by the U.S. market. JNBY launched in the U.S. with a pop-up shop and due to the success of the pop-up shop, they then opened a permanent flagship store in downtown New York City, specifically in Soho at 75 Greene Street. The store has been very successful, [and] has easily gained a clientele of repeat customers. Consumers in New York City are constantly looking for new and intriguing design.
JD: JNBY just came out with a new kidswear collection. Can you say something about the current market for high-end childrens’ clothing?
MMS: High-end children’s clothing is a huge market in the US. The majority of major brands now have children’s lines, including J. Crew, the Gap, and more fashion forward brands like Stella McCartney. With the new trend of street-style blogs for children such Planet Awesome Kid, children’s high end fashion is definitely a growing market.
JD: How does JNBY compete with the likes of Comme Des Garcons and Yohji Yamamoto in the more avant-garde fashion world?
MMS: JNBY has a similar aesthetic to these designers, but what sets the brand apart is its accessible price point. JNBY designs are unique and many are multi-functional allowing the customer to wear their pieces in several different ways, creating added value. JNBY offers a high level of design and quality for a more reasonable price, allowing for a wider range of consumers.
JD: Will JNBY participate in New York Fashion Week this fall?
MMS: JNBY will be participating in Fashion’s Night Out on September 8th this year. Fashion’s Night Out is a city-wide shopping event during which 1,000 retailers in all five boroughs stay open late and invite the public to meet with designers, attend in-store performances, and engage in activities coordinated by the retailer. It’s sponsored by Vogue and The City of New York in effort to get New Yorkers excited about shopping and celebrate the relationship between retailer and customer.
JNBY will be holding an event at their store in New York City with a Chinese theme to celebrate their cultural heritage. Specifically, JNBY will host an evening of Chinese-themed games for parents and children. Adults can play Mahjong Memory to win an item from JNBYs collection at a value of $300 or less. There will be mahjong tiles spread out face down on a table. Each person gets three chances to find two matching tiles. There will only be one matching set, so the first person to find it will win the prize. For their game, Kids will have to use chopsticks to transport five round objects from one bowl to another, located at the other side of a table. If the item is dropped, they must go back to the start. The first child to successfully transport all five objects times to the second bowl wins. The winner can pick out an item of clothing valued at $200 or less from jnby by JNBY, the children’s collection also sold at the store.
For more information about JNBY, check out the company website at www.jnby.com.