Every month, CCI looks back at some of the most memorable initiatives in China’s active brand collaboration scene, where creativity and ability to connect with Gen Z and millennial consumers on the latest trends are keys to success.
Top Pick: H&M x Pronounce
Taking Chinese-style collaboration global, fast-fashion retailer H&M announced an upcoming drop created with the independent Chinese label Pronounce. The collection, designed by Yushan Li and Jun Zhou, takes its inspiration from China’s famed Crescent Lake in Dunhuang (an oasis on the ancient Silk Road) and traditional folk tales, with graphic patterns and embroidery in shades of burgundy and gold.
“We developed this collection during the pandemic. The idea of a lake in an oasis to us symbolizes a sense of hope in a difficult time,” Li told WWD. “We imagined a hike in front of the Crescent Lake, and we explored the subtle layers of everyday wear and combined them with unique craftsmanship to provide more possibility for the wearers.”
Pronounce has become a savvy pick for numerous other brands (such as Diesel, Gap, and Mini Cooper) seeking to reach China’s young, culturally-inclined consumers and fans of guochao (“national trend”) style, as the designers fuse traditional aesthetics with the sensibilities of contemporary streetwear. Pronounce’s latest menswear collection, for example, explores Chinese pottery from both physical and philosophical perspectives.
The collection will be sold through H&M’s premium streetwear label, Blank Staples, which is only available at select stores around the world, though in China it will be available via multiple channels, including H&M’s website and app, official Tmall flagship store, and WeChat store.
Five more noteworthy collaborations from February 2021:
Randomevent x “A Writer’s Odyssey”
In the hyper-competitive Spring Festival marketing season, it’s become imperative for brands to look beyond standard forms of collaboration model and place a greater emphasis on creativity through partnerships. This is especially true in the fashion sector, where brands vie to outdo each other with holiday-themed limited-edition collections for either gifting or self-treating.
Rather than just put out designs that relied on the Chinese zodiac (the Ox this year), the Shanghai-based streetwear label Randomevent paired up with one of the hottest IPs of this year’s holiday, the suspenseful fantasy epic “A Writer’s Odyssey” (刺杀小说家). The men’s capsule collection includes embroidered jackets, t-shirts, hats, and other apparel that merges contemporary street culture with more traditionally-inspired imagery from the film— a combination meant to appeal to the growing number of fans of guochao (国潮, “national trend”) style.
Peacebird x Six Chinese Fashion Brands
In the current era of “mega collaborations,” straightforward one-on-one brand partnerships may no longer be enough to stand out from the crowd. Chinese fashion label Peacebird teamed up with six domestic indie brands to expand on its “SuperChina” initiative, with designers from each taking the signature elements from their respective brands to create a capsule collection aimed at Gen Z consumers.
The SuperChina campaign also invited creative professionals from a variety of backgrounds to interpret the theme of the series via their unique personal styles, and Peacebird brand ambassador and uber-influencer Ouyang Nana also promoted the collection via Weibo videos.
Perfect Diary x Disney
C-beauty brand Perfect Diary frequently uses brand collaborations as part of its broader strategy to win over China’s millennial and Gen Z consumers. A recent partnership with Disney introduced a limited-edition series of its amino acid-based facial cleansing products reimagined with inspiration from the Baymax character from the 2014 animation “Big Hero 6.”
Appealing to the love of cuteness and blind-box style toys among young consumers, two of the makeup remover bottles are capped with a Baymax head, while other products feature illustrations of the character on the packaging. The simple features of the superhero robot figure, rendered in black and white, mesh nicely with the minimalist aesthetic of Perfect Diary’s collection.
Honor of Kings x Peking University History Department
Higher education represents a new and largely untapped new front in China’s booming brand collaboration scene. After partnering with a range of top-tier consumer brands — from MAC Cosmetics to Burberry — Tencent’s Honor of Kings launched a strategic cooperation with the history department of Peking University (often called the “Harvard of China”).
The partnership involves working with two professors to jointly produce content for the game’s “Chang’An Competition Year,” named after the capital city for much of the Tang Dynasty (618-907), which is widely regarded in China as the peak of ancient civilization. Tencent also released an immersive mobile VR tour of the game’s Chang’an scenery and launched a public co-creation competition focused on art, design, video, and dance.
Ikea x ROG
Taking a “China-first” approach to product innovation, Ikea debuted a hotly anticipated collaboration with Asus Republic of Gamers (ROG) on a new range of affordable gaming furniture and accessories. The jointly designed Uppspel family of products was launched in China in February, but will not reach the rest of the world until later this year, highlighting the importance of the Chinese market and its estimated 720 million gamers.
The black-and-red collection includes a sleek high-backed gaming chair priced at RMB 999 ($155), an adjustable table that can be used as a standing desk (with a more premium price point of RMB 3,999, or around $620), and a wall-mounted pegboard to keep gaming equipment organized. Ikea is also introducing a series of self-designed items that will be useful for gamers, like a headphone stand, cupholder, and floor mat.