Additional reporting by Tamsin Smith
Capitalizing on Chinese thirst for luxury streetwear, it came as no surprise to China’s netizens yesterday when American brand Supreme launched a collaboration with domestic urban fashion brand OXN. Or so everyone thought.
A video posted on Instagram claimed to show Supreme’s President, James Jebbia, on stage in Guangzhou signing a series of collaborations with Chinese brands. Just one problem – the foreigner on stage was not James Jebbia.
As it turned out, Chinese label OXN had hired a foreign actor to pretend to be Supreme’s CEO and fake the launch of the brand in China. The “rent-a-foreigner” business is not a new phenomenon in China – domestic brands and small scale companies often hire attractive foreigners to pose as colleagues in a ruse to win over more Chinese consumers. However, the hyper-popular status of the Supreme brand caused the stunt to go viral on both Chinese and U.S social media. In China, netizens admitted they were embarrassed by the domestic label’s antics,
“Perhaps from a marketing perspective, OXN have won. But this incident has been ridiculed by foreign media. I feel ashamed, very ashamed” commented one Weibo user.
Other users also questioned the integrity of the brand, asking, “What kind of a brand is OXN? Some 18-tier clothing brand?” and “It’s all self-directed and acted, there’s really no bottom line for those people. It’s really embarrassing for Chinese streetwear.”
China has become the core growth engine for many luxury streetwear brands, with Chinese millennial consumers acting as its fuel. Recent reports show that Chinese buyers are favoring upscaled sneaker labels over traditional high fashion brands, and enticed by collaborations with emerging hip-hop artists.
For China’s savvy young consumers, publicity stunts like the one by OXN won’t go unpunished. “Well, that’s the end of OXN. No one will buy from them now” stated one Weibo commenter.
With streetwear used by China’s wealthy young consumers as a symbol of rebellion, perhaps OXN has messed with the wrong crowd.