China’s art toy obsession is no secret. During Alibaba’s 11.11 Global Shopping Festival in 2022, Tmall saw collectible toys total gross merchandise value grow 694 percent compared to the previous year.
This week, both Chinese streetwear powerhouse Clot and flourishing independent designer Chen Peng have jumped on the hype via collaborations with Pop Mart and Robbi, respectively.
Also in the news this week, domestic streetwear favorite Melting Sadness has dropped another China-exclusive, colorful collection with American sports apparel brand Champion.
Pop Mart x Clot
Date: September 1
Product:Mega α Skullpanda 1000% Clot
Social context: Pop Mart’s reveal of the Mega Skull Panda on Instagram has over 4,300 likes. On TikTok, #popmartxclot has amassed 21,500 views.
Verdict: As Clot continues its 20th birthday celebrations, it has tapped fellow Chinese mainplayer Pop Mart. The toy brand is a great partner to produce a creative collectible with, as it boosts Clot’s presence in the homes of its existing consumers in Asia and beyond.
As reported last month, Pop Mart is experiencing huge growth. The company’s profit in 1H 2023 overtook that for all 2022. In short, it’s popular, so is a failsafe addition to Clot’s huge roster of collaborators for its anniversary.
Of course, streetwear fanatics do share some traits with collectors – resale platforms are dominated by sneakers. The response across social media suggests that leveraging the hype-driven worlds of collectors is an instant hit.
Robbi x Chen Peng
Date: September 1 to 5
Product: Buttermoon 400% 70cm co-branded set (art toy and clothes) priced at 5,799 RMB ($794USD), and 27cm co-branded art toy priced at 979 RMB ($134USD)
Social context: On Weibo, #RobbixChenpeng has just 33 organic posts, but #Chenping has 2 million followers and #Robbi has 30.9 million, compared with Robbi’s 20,400 followers on Instagram. The four related posts that have been published have gained 253 likes.
Verdict: As an art toy that can act as a blank slate for creatives and various brand identities, Robbi is a frequent collaborator with a variety of names. Inspired by the Chinese legend of the moon goddess Chang’e and the lunar rover Yutu, the art toy strongly connects with local culture, so working with another domestic name is a great way to tap into national pride.
Following Robbi’s blockbuster Robbi x Creed collaboration in January 2023, this product launch with independent designer Chen Peng shows the art toy is edging into the luxury industry. Chen Peng, on the other hand, is able through this tie-up to explore new product categories and enter homes through a collectors’ item that adds longevity to her thriving brand.
Having launched collections with MM6 Margiela, and luxury retailer 24S, the Chinese design talent is consistently extending her consumer-reach via co-branded collections.
Melting Sadness x Champion
Date: September 4
Product: Clothing collection
Social context: Champion’s official brand hashtag on Weibo has been read 650 million times, whereas #MeltingSadness has amassed 25.8 million reads. The collection’s #championplayout hashtag has 71,000 reads on Weibo.
Verdict: Even though Champion does have a larger presence in the mainland, Melting Sadness provides a targeted route to Chinese Gen Zers who are into streetwear.
Zhang Quan’s brand is known for its playfully vibrant collections, and is often tapped by global brands as an authentic gateway to local target consumers.
Judging from the promotional content across social media and overall design of the collection, the designer has been given full freedom for this collaborative project. It’s less reflective of Champion’s branding – Melting Sadness provides the historical sportswear name with a refreshed look that resonates more with the designer’s own taste and identity.