Why Chinese Brands are Winning the Streetwear Game

We often hear about how young Chinese consumers are dominating the high-end, luxury fashion market. However, a new fashion trend has emerged from China that’s starting to steal the limelight: domestic streetwear brands.

In 2018, market research company Nielsen reported that Chinese consumer spending on street fashion apparel had risen by 62 percent compared to 2017. But over the last couple of years, Chinese designers have begun to capitalize on this trend by introducing their own authentic Chinese streetwear brands that are blurring existing fashion boundaries. These brands, called Guochao Pinpai 国潮品牌 (domestic brands), are attracting younger Chinese consumers at an unprecedented rate.

Nowadays, the list of domestic streetwear brands (Guochao Pinpai) in China is extremely long. However, the following four hot brands are worth remembering, due to their popularity, quality, and embedded brand values. Below, Jing Daily describes Li Ning, Roaringwild, Hi Panda, and Wookong to better understand the origins of this newfound interest in domestic streetwear brands.

Streetwear

Li Ning fashion runway show. Photo: ETfashion.net

Li Ning (李宁), Everything is possible

Li Ning, founded by and named after the world-class, Chinese gymnast Mr. Li Ning in 1990, is currently China’s leading sports brand. The brand positions itself as having a  “futuristic and global vision of Chinese heritage, informed by the culture of the street and made possible by the break-through innovations of Li-Ning.”

The Li Ning brand made its first appearance at New York Fashion Week in 2018 and has successfully attracted younger Chinese generations because of its sport-style clothing, “street” feel, and the ability to integrate both Chinese with Western styles. The line symbolizes the original attitude and trends that Chinese brands latched onto thanks to its fearless and disruptive designs. But the brand also maintains strict fabric and tailoring requirements, which are a testament to the strength of Chinese manufacturing.

Photo: roaringwild.net

Photo: roaringwild.net

Roaringwild (咆哮野兽)

Roaringwild, which is mostly referred to by its Chinese name 咆哮野兽 (Paoxiao Yeshou), is a streetwear fashion brand originally created by six college students from Shenzhen in 2010.

The brand adheres to the life philosophy of street culture that encourages young people to pursue their passion and ‘Roar’ out their personality and individuality to the world.

With its high-quality materials and stylish designs, Roaringwild clothing promotes original street culture and demonstrates the free life attitudes of new generations of Chinese consumers. For example, the Spring/Summer 2019 collection called ‘Rule Breaker’ provides the right styles to young consumers wanting to challenge the status quo.

Streetwear

Photo: Hi Panda

Hi Panda

Established as a distinctive Chinese street fashion brand in 2010, Hi Panda was founded in Shanghai by a Chinese contemporary artist named 吉吉 (JiJi). The brand strives to portray young people’s spirit of rebellion and childlike spirit.

Hi Panda collections are characterized by their easy-to-wear clothes that depict an angry, black & white panda printed on various backgrounds. The animal represents the attitude of the rebellious Chinese youth who want to be different instead of conforming to the common beliefs within Chinese society. The streetwear brand connects with its audience by not only providing fashionable clothes but also by giving the young generation a dressing concept that best represents them.

Photo: meiletao.com

Photo: meiletao.com

Wookong (悟空)

Also founded in 2010, Wookong is a clothing brand by independent Chinese designer 吴经歆 (Wu JingXin). The brand is seen as one of the most original Chinese streetwear brands around, and it is highly regarded by trend-loving consumers.

The brand’s Chinese name 悟空 (Wu Kong) is named after the Monkey King in the ancient Chinese novel ‘Journey to the West.’ As such, WooKong embodies the real essence of Chinese culture by depicting symbolic animals that have important meanings in Chinese society. Since the brand aims to integrate modern street culture with Chinese retro trends, it’s a great example of a streetwear brand that Chinese consumers can proudly exclaim is “Made in China.”

WHY DO YOUNG CHINESE CONSUMERS BUY DOMESTIC STREETWEAR BRANDS?

Currently, there are various types of overseas streetwear brands in China — most notably from Japan, America, and Southeast Asia — such as Supreme, Off-White, and Yeezy that have an undeniable appeal to the younger Chinese demographic. So, why would Chinese youths increasingly prefer domestic Chinese streetwear brands?

In short, their primary motivation lies in its symbolic value, offering them national pride and a sense of home. Young Chinese consumers value their heritage and are proud to belong to a nation increasingly regarded as a global superpower. Additionally, they believe that by buying local they are supporting their country’s economy. The negative idea that domestic products labeled “Made in China” are of poor quality is fading more and more. And it’s true that most Chinese streetwear fashion brands have improved their product design, functionality, and marketing. This strong nationalistic feeling is not only shared among young Chinese consumers, but with all Chinese. There is even a ‘China Brand Day’ that’s celebrated on May 10.

Young Chinese consumers are increasingly finding it important to incentivize and appreciate domestic brands over foreign ones, and Chinese streetwear brands are helping them do so. Indeed, these brands not only provide high-quality products, which is helping to change previous perceptions of the “Made in China” label for the better, but they also express important Chinese values within fashion statements. Thus, with more and stronger domestic players in the Chinese market, it will become increasingly important for international streetwear brands to truly understand what drives young Chinese consumers, and how they should target them.

 

Valentina Frigerio and Louisa Loehrig are working at Qumin – a Digital Creative Agency based in London and Shanghai.

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