Will China’s Ski Fever Cool Down?

This monthly column looks at the very best China-related collaborations and drops that are transforming the retail landscape. From local fashion brands to C-beauty, virtual idols to NFTs, and KOLS to lifestyle and games, Jing Daily offers a curated selection of what’s dropping. The column will also feature in Jing Daily’s bi-weekly Collabs and Drops newsletter — a 360-degree lowdown on the world of collaboration. 

With an eye to the China market, luxury brands have been piling into the ski industry recently, preempting the country’s boom following the Beijing Winter Olympics. And boom it certainly has. 

During 2021, big names like Dior and Louis Vuitton released ski-related looks, products, and collections — even amid the pandemic. More recently, Chanel invited Korean idol artist Jennie to shoot a commercial for its COCO NEIGE2021/22 ski series, and Prada opened limited-time stores inspired by snow sports scenes in Beijing and Shanghai (among others). All in time to ride China’s ski-wave.

According to the report “Ice and Snow Sports Development Plan (2016-2025)” issued by the General Administration of Sports of China, the total scale of China’s winter sports industry was predicted to reach $95 billion (600 billion yuan) in 2020. By 2025, the total scale of related industries was expected to exceed $158 billion (1 trillion yuan). 

From TV shows to galas, the possibilities seem endless. The fascination has even reached inexperienced Gen Z enthusiasts; according to Xiaohongshu, searches for ski tutorials are on the rise, with many inspired by the skills of poster girl Eileen Gu. “Many girls, especially those who don’t know how to ski, might want to dress nicely and take pictures when they go to the ski resort for the first time. I think this demand exists,” Guo Yimeng, founder of the skiwear brand GEGEDO, told local news outlet Jiemian Fashion

Guo is also renting out fashionable ski suits to these new, non-typical users hinting at a growth in demand for rental wear and equipment. According to Alizila, between January 31 and February 4, sales of winter sports equipment rose 300 percent on Tmall including a 180 percent jump in skiing gear alone. Moreover, according to the Ministry of Commerce, sales of ski equipment and suits increased by 62.9 percent and 61.2 percent respectively over the Spring Festival. 

The question is whether, post-ceremony, the mainland can maintain its ski-momentum. That remains to be seen. Until then, Jing Daily’s China Collabs Column explores the partnerships tapping the ski-sector, from coffee brands and cafes to electronics and luxury outerwear. 

FENDI X PEAK WHITE 

Incorporating iconic tiger pattern elements into both shop and tableware design, a Fendi Cafe opened for business at the top of the Wanda Ski Resort in Changbai Mountain a popular domestic ski destination. Meanwhile, Burberry also opened a large tent-style, short-term boutique at Jilin Songhua Lake Resort, which offers casual snacks such as coffee and popsicles to sports enthusiasts. 

The fashion account @高跟鞋走地球 was the best performing amplification of the trend on WeChat; the post received over 65,000 reads. In general, the feedback was positive on WeChat: “interesting collab” and “ice coffee with ice land,” for example although comments usually focused on the science of Fendi’s partner. 

The Verdict: According to culture analyst Siyuan Meng, these kinds of tie-ups are vital for luxury looking to lead in the market. She says, “Fendi tapping into the booming Chinese skiing market through pop-up stores at ski resorts shows luxury brands in China have been competing to stay relevant and adaptable among China’s savvy and stylish customers. The same can be said for Burberry.” Indeed, fans may expect to see more brands appear at the forefront of the winter sport trends and even more diversified and creative crossovers coming up.

GENKI FOREST X OLYMPIC WINNERS 

Stylish beverage brand Genki Forest 元气森林 has been winning over fans by partnering with all three Chinese gold medalists: Meng Jie Xu, Xuran Su, and Eileen Gu (who has another endorsement out with Anta x Beats). Each of them won at least one Olympic gold medal and this particular join-up has been a hit on Weibo: the post was released by multiple accounts and news outlets with each one receiving over 15,000 likes and thousands of comments. 

Online responses are all highly positive, including: “Genki forest was so smart” and “it’s so wise to have Olympic winners as ambassadors.” Around 50 articles on WeChat mention it, with each earning up to 30,000 reads. 

The Verdict: Analyst Meng considers this to be one of the most successful collaborations in the season. “Genki Forest’s collaboration with three Olympians, who are all beloved rising superstars and earned gold medals, largely help this stylish and creative brand connect with its young market.” But it’s not only younger fans. The partnership also increased its recognition among potential consumers widely across all demographics, attesting to the validity of this trend.  

MONCLER X DINGYUN ZHANG

Moncler is naturally synonymous with precision sportswear, but also the nurturing of local talent. This latest partnership with Dingyyun Zhang is a celebration of pioneering imagination and technicality. Moncler’s official account @Moncler盟可睐 amplified the announcement and feedback pointed to the fashion-forward feel: “This is like an art piece.” On WeChat, too, the majority of the comments mentioned the young emerging designer Zhang and discussed his design theme, using words such as “chic” and “avant-garde.”

The verdict: According to Travers-Smith, Moncler x Dingyun Zhang shows great understanding of the modern Chinese consumer and this is the kind of well-thought-out approach that many brands miss in their efforts to localize for younger, affluent consumers in the home market. 

“Firstly, entrusting the design to a rising Chinese designer with a strong design aesthetic is a great route to meaningful localization in a way that resonates locally,” he notes. Secondly, of course, Chinese fashion-forward consumers are “some of the boldest in the world and the unique, oversized puffiness of the Moncler collection delivers appealing uniqueness, humor, and stand-out silhouettes.” All of this, of course, while still carrying the distinctive Moncler prestige in materials and quality. 

BOSIDENG X XIAO ZHAN

From sponsoring the Chinese Antarctic expeditions to dressing Chinese mountaineering teams as they navigate Everest, the down jacket maker Bosideng has been stamping its authority on the sector since 1976. Juliette Duveau, co-founder of consulting agency The Chinese Pulse previously told Jing Daily that it is recognized as a “China cool brand with a sense of mission” inside consumers’ minds. Now, it has tapped idol Xiao Zhan for a ski-inspired collection.

Feedback on social media platforms has been overwhelmingly positive, with fans saying: “super fashion,” “wanna buy, because of Xiao Zhan,” and “good ambassador choice.” Xiao Zhan himself has over 20 million fans on Weibo, and the post from Bosideng’s official account  @波司登 has over 22K comments and 167K likes. For reference, WeChat articles in general usually have between 5 to 10,000 reads. 

The Verdict: As Meng reminds us yet again, the seal of approval from a Chinese celebrity is a valuable tool to connect with consumers. “The endorsement of Xiao Zhan, one of the hottest pop idols in China currently, will fuel new vitality to this old but revolving down jacket label.” 

EILEEN GU X ANTA X BEATS

Personality collabs were all the rage ​​as companies looked to China’s domestic athletes for the halo effect. The official sportswear supplier to the Beijing Olympics, domestic sports giant Anta, paired up with freestyle skiing world champion Eileen Gu to launch a tripartite joint ice and snow gift box with audio brand Beats. The gift box includes professional ski gloves and a Lei Feng hat, a sculpture of Chongli Genting Ski Resort, and the Beats Fit Pro headset. 

WeChat engagement was sparse, but in general the feedback was positive. Similarly, on Weibo, feedback was good but the collab hashtag  ##安踏冰雪灵境# (#Anta Iceland#) failed miserably with a mere 140 reads. The best performing post (at 23,875 likes) was released by fashion influencer @开箱青年.

The verdict: Jonathan Travers-Smith, CEO and Founder of digital agency Hot Pot China, feels this pairing with fashion icon Eileen Gu shows them taking a much stronger “national pride” angle. “The hat points firmly to the core socialist ideals of Lei Feng, while the embroidery of the word ‘CHINA’ in English on the gloves shows pride in China being on a world stage through the vehicle of Olympics.” 

Though he thinks the headphones were something of an afterthought, the power of Anta can’t be denied. “The reach of the behemoth Anta brand among vast numbers of the Chinese population is likely to bring valuable visibility for Beats, however, as a high-price point brand, Beats might have chosen a more premium partner to help drive the right kind of brand equity in China,” Travers-Smith concludes.

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