What Happened: Over the past week, a slew of fashion brands have been blacklisted in China due to their refusal to source Xinjiang-made cotton, from fast fashion leader H&M to luxury names like Burberry and Calvin Klein.
But now, an unexpected player has taken a hit: BLACKPINK’s Lisa. The lead dancer of the K-pop girl group recently saw her cover for the April 2021 issue of Harper’s Bazaar China scrapped from the magazine’s social media — despite not being Chinese or taking a political stance. Netizens suggest that the Thai artist’s association with adidas Originals could have put the publication in a tough spot, although neither Harper’s Bazaar China or BLACKPINK’s management have addressed the issue publicly.
The Jing Take: Whether or not these speculations are true, adidas is proving to be one of the companies hardest hit by the crisis. On top of Huawei pulling the brand from its app store, adidas has also lost a number of Chinese celebrity partners, including Angelababy, Jackson Wang, and Jackson Yee. The sportswear giant has even been blurred on iQIYI’s show Youth With You, where it has dressed dozens of idol hopefuls head to toe in its striped apparel.
But whereas adidas has direct ties to the Better Cotton Initiative, Lisa’s cover removal comes as a surprise given her silence on the issue and surging popularity in China, where she boasts eight million Weibo followers, a recurring mentorship role on the aforementioned iQIYI program, as well as previous cover shoots on Elle China and Nylon China. Thus, the social media erasure perhaps says less about the artist herself and acts more as a precaution by Harper’s Bazaar China to stave off potential netizen wrath. But this brings up the question: How far does China’s “cancel culture” extend?
Brands shouldn’t fret too much, however. Chinese authorities can sway social media reception, but consumer behavior often tells a different story. For example, Nike saw its new Air Jordan and Dunk Low sneakers sell out on Tmall just earlier this week. Meanwhile, adidas recently celebrated a successful Chinese New Year campaign and saw double-digit growth in the region in Q4, with streetwear and sportswear remaining hot categories in the market. So while things seem bad for Western brands at the moment, it is unlikely that consumers are ready to kill this love.
The Jing Take reports on a piece of the leading news and presents our editorial team’s analysis of the key implications for the luxury industry. In the recurring column, we analyze everything from product drops and mergers to heated debate sprouting on Chinese social media.