This new monthly Chinese Designer Collabs 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.
This month, the mood lands on the growing number of emerging Chinese designers — a trend that looks set to explode globally in 2022 — and where and how they are forming and retailing partnerships. These include the high altitude of Chen Peng with local sportswear superstar Li-Ning, Fengyi Tan’s first global collaboration and foray into kidswear, and at the opposite end of the spectrum is Philip Lim 3.1’s sustainability-led tie-up with carmaker Volvo and Clot x Sacai x Nike.
In a new report on the topic from éCLAIR called China’s Fashion Shake-Up, the creative agency has analyzed a number of emerging fashion brands which are reshaping the aesthetic understanding of China’s younger generations. And, as the paper notes, while many are in their infancy, what they lack in size and retail revenue they make up for in their innovative approaches to value chains and offline retail models. But most importantly, they offer the “cool factor” which is intrinsically linked with the wide-ranging trending term Guochao meaning “national wave.”
Domestic brands tapping local talents are a growing trend which can be put down to a shift in younger consumer attitudes. The hashtag 国潮 guochao on Weibo has 420 million views and 4.98 millions discussions. According to éCLAIR’s report, western fashion companies have lost their halo effect, and the exclusive premiums that luxury brand logos carry is losing ground to newer, niche brands “who offer new, more culturally anchored opportunities to reflect their personality through original designs.”
This is seen in the latest offering from Chenpeng x COUNTERFLOW By Li-Ning — a partnership which started in Autumn 2019 at New York Fashion Week. COUNTERFLOW is a culture-led streetwear line from the Olympic gymnast’s parent company; meanwhile, Chenpeng has also been growing its reputation in China and was the YU PRIZE 2021 winner. Wendy Yu, founder of the award, told Jing Daily she was won over by a combination of wearability and creativity: “As the YU PRIZE 2021 winner, Chenpeng stood out as a brand with a uniquely strong DNA that translates both aesthetically and commercially. Similarly, Li-Ning sets a benchmark in China for accessible fashion-forward street and sportswear, which is so popular in China.”
This “runway only” collection was unveiled in a dramatic show surrounded by the snow capped mountains of the Himalayas and the associated hashtag #2021wuxing now has over 1 billion views, indicating just how much noise this local designer collaboration makes. Founder Peng explained his role in the sportswear giant’s COUNTERFLOW strategy: “My part is to help build the brand image. So, we don’t sell it as the products are actually too dramatic for Li-Ning clients and fans. But they still admire the designs and this breathtaking presentation amid mountains, clouds and rivers.”
But it’s not only local companies who are tapping the Guochao trend. Fengyi Tan x Asics is a first from the Shanghai based designer, and also her first move into kidswear — a global market expected to reach $326 billion by 2027. According to China’s National Bureau of Statistics, more than 30 percent of Chinese urban household income is spent on children, and given China’s falling and aging population and the new government family planning law including a three-child policy, this collaboration leverages the topical recalibration of interest on children.
Royal College of Art graduate Tan is known for her girly, feminine designs for women in their 20s and 30s. They are active, and believe that sports, fitness, and wellness are an essential part of their education, and very often are the mothers of children wearing Asics Kids. Tan continued: “It was my first time [in kidswear] and there are a lot of limits when working in kidswear because of safety restrictions. I was also trying to approach it from both a child’s and mom’s perspective. It was inspired by movement, which I use a lot in our main collection, and tried to bring out the connections between our brand and ASICS kidswear.”
While this collab offered Fengyi Tan a route into a new, lucrative market, Asics are no stranger to reaping the rewards offered by emerging designers in China. According to Chen Liang, the China Managing Partner at éCLAIR, this shows how these collaborations can be a win-win for both sides. “For designers, the brands can provide international visibility and credibility. And for brands, the designers offer local relevance and fresh design aesthetics. This model has proved to be quite impactful, and consumers are not showing signs of fatigue.” The collection is currently available on the Asics T-mall store and in stores in some Chinese cities.
And finally, at the more mature end of the sector, two more China-related collabs out in October include Clot x Sacai x Nike drop and Philip Lim 3.1 x Volvo. CLOT co-founder Edison Chen and Sacai’s Chitose Abe joined hands again, this time to roll out a sneaker in two colorways. A variety of limited, co-branded daily necessities designed for this home experience will be exclusively available from CLOTsacaiTHEHOME limited-time stores in Hong Kong, LA, and Shanghai.
The Volvo x 3.1 Philip Lim sustainable weekend bag is made from Nordico, a new material used for Volvo car interiors, was a passion project for Lim (whose brand mantra is “to make less, means more”). The key focus for Lim was to design “a beautiful, eco-friendly bag that is desirable but also highly functional” while also making “responsible material choices and employing the least harmful manufacturing process.” The collaboration has had an impressive 76 percent positive feedback on social listening tool Digimind data over the last 30 days.
While the bag is not available for purchase, a limited number of bags will be given away through local market initiatives such as competitions, charity auctions, and giveaways, which indicates that ROI for collabs in 2021 has moved far away from sales or numbers.
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