Although many of China’s companies are rapidly expanding abroad, its fashion labels are still overwhelmingly confined to the domestic sphere. Billion-dollar company Bosideng has been working hard to change this with an ambitious international development plan that has made its way from London to New York with a new pop-up opening.
Known in China for its popular down coats, the behemoth brand’s more than 11,000 China stores were just the beginning of what were to be global ambitions. After opening up a flagship store in London in 2012, the company’s pop-up location opened in January in Union Square men’s specialty store Rothman’s. While its items sold in China are more mid-range, the brand is taking an upmarket approach in the West with men’s casualwear and suits.
“When I started Bosideng I never imagined we’d be here,” said company Chairman Gao Dekang of the international expansion in an interview with Jing Daily, “but the company grew beyond my dreams and international expansion felt like a natural step.”
The brand hopes to tap into the United States’ $60 billion menswear market with suits geared toward a “hipper,” and “more fashionable” demographic in the 35 to 54-year old age range, said Marty Staff, the former CEO of Hugo Boss who has been brought on to spearhead the company’s U.S. expansion. In order to foster a young, trendy image, the brand has enlisted street artist Jamel Robinson, who unveiled a painting at the opening event for the New York pop-up. In addition, Bosideng presented a collection during New York Fashion Week. “Showing our collection as a part of New York Fashion Week seemed to make the most sense, as it is the intersection for global culture,” said Gao.
In the United States, the brand is also enlisting its Chinese heritage in shaping its identity in the eyes of American consumers, while at the same time taking into account its status as a “global brand,” according to Staff. While he distanced the aesthetic of the clothing from the many distinctly Chinese looks of pieces by Shanghai Tang, another Chinese retailer that has gone global, the pop-up prominently features the Chinese characters for the company’s name on its display window. Bosideng has also created screen-printed shirts with the work of Chinese artist Liu Bolin, and at its pop-up opening party, it gave out t-shirts with Bosideng’s name in Chinese. According to Staff, “We love the Chinese characters that comprise the name,” and they’re an “integral part” of the brand. “This is a Chinese company with a Chinese sensibility,” said Staff.
For the time being, the company is focusing on its U.S. expansion, said Gao. The brand has pop-ups planned for Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Miami, and hopes to open a New York flagship when a space is located. “The only place that’s interesting to us is Fifth Avenue,” said Staff. In addition, the business has plans for wholesale and e-commerce components, which have taken an important place next to brick-and-mortar expansion in the United States. “Five years ago, every retailer would have said I want to have 200 stores; I want to have 500 stores,” said Staff. “We’re interested in having 10 great stores.”
Below are some looks from the brand’s New York Fashion Week presentation (All images by Marko Kalfa):