Jing Daily’s 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 in China. The column also features in Jing Daily’s bi-weekly Collabs and Drops newsletter — a 360-degree lowdown on the world of collaboration.
This month’s column takes a look into the expediting trend of NFT collaborations sweeping through China’s fashion industry. As of 2022, AntChain’s insights into sales and global NFT rates predict that the mainland’s NFT market will grow at a rate of 150 percent and reach $4.64 billion (29.52 billion RMB) by 2026.
From influencers aiming to make their names known in the realms of Web3 to fashion designers breaking new ground, China is slowly getting swept up in the NFT rush. At Milan Fashion Week, ANNAKIKI used the metaverse as a means of transcending the boundaries between the physical and the virtual, and it’s clearly a trend that is taking hold. Non-fungible tokens have become the industry’s first point of (digital) call for luxury brands looking to reach new consumer demographics, take novel creative avenues, and generate additional sources of financial gain.
However, after the crackdown on crypto-mining that began last year, China has started to impose more stringent restrictions on the industry and crypto-related services: resulting in numerous Chinese companies removing or restricting NFT content on their platforms. Social giants such as WeChat and Jingtan (Alibaba’s Ant Group-owned NFT platform) have updated their policies and brought into effect punishable offenses for those who violate company rules. The restrictions pose challenges for Chinese creatives looking to branch out into the metaverse, and as to how they can produce “digital collectibles” without facing punishment.
Despite the country’s tight restrictions on cryptocurrency and the exchanging of digital assets, interest in the metaverse and NFTs continues to escalate. In September 2021, “Metaverse” search-attention experienced an explosive growth, with a 466 percent month-on-month increase in popularity. Now, the hashtag #whatistheMateverse# has gained 68.24 million views on Weibo, while “NFT” has accumulated 440 million views with 290,000 people taking part in the discussion.
With this in mind, it’s interesting to note that the following collaborations received minimal-to-zero acknowledgment via the social media platform or its hashtags. Could this be due to the tightening of China’s crypto-mining regulations? Either way, here’s the roundup of the mainland’s top NFT collabs of the year so far.
STAFFONLY X STUDIO OFFICE
To celebrate its Fall 2022 collection launch, Chinese menswear brand STAFFONLY® established “STAFFONLY®️ AUCTION,” a virtual auction center used to promote and sell the brand’s own collection of non-fungible tokens. The luxury label collaborated with creative generation workshop “studio office” to create 3D virtual characters under the theme of “Being Liked,” which are to be presented as NFTs and sold at the brand’s first virtual auction. “The progressive technologies and people’s mindsets surrounding the metaverse created a suitable environment for our project,” said Shimo Zhou, Co-founder and Head of Design at STAFFONLY. “The NFT drop was a designed, new form for experimental performance for our audience, rather than a simple buy-and-sell activity.” The series of NFT works were released for preview in late March, before their official public opening to collectors via the “STAFFONLY®️ AUCTION” online exhibition hall.
GUO PEI X UNXD
Chinese couturier Guo Pei announced its involvement with Decentraland’s first-ever Metaverse Fashion Week, in collaboration with luxury NFT marketplace UNXD. The luxury designer described their showcase as a “sensorial experience” that took place in the realms of the MVFW’s district. 50 brands, including Etro, Dundas, and Estée Lauder, stepped into the virtual destination of Decentraland to debut their digital collections in the platform’s new Luxury Fashion District (modeled on Avenue Montaigne in Paris). The designer will be one of the first to bring the intricacy of couture to the metaverse. In February, British brand ROKSANDA dropped a series of NFTs that saw one of the physical runway’s sculptural, demi-couture gowns transformed into a non-fungible by the Institute of Digital Fashion. NFTs have previously sparked interest amongst the streetwear fashion sector, materializing in drops such as adidas X Prada’s “Re-Source” and Supreme X Yohji Yamamoto’s “NF-Tee.” For Guo Pei, MVFW’s digital experiment is a chance for the luxury label to continue bringing couture fashion from the sidelines of Web3 into public consciousness.
MOOSE KNUCKLES X MIA KONG
Canadian luxury outerwear brand Moose Knuckles, alongside Chinese influencer and Dazed China’s Style Director Mia Kong, made their foray into the metaverse with the launch of an NFT created by digital Portuguese artist Tiago Marinho. The non-fungible token featured a digitized version of one of Moose Knuckles’ most iconic jackets, which was teased through a campaign video titled WELCOME TO THE METAVERSE via Kong’s Instagram page (@miakong999). The hashtag for the drop #mia kong# generated 532,000 reads via Weibo, while Kong’s Instagram post reached over 5,000 views. The drop was available to bid on via global NFT marketplace OpenSea and marks Moose Knuckles’ debut experiment into the connected world of NFTs and digital art.
JAY CHOU PHANTACi
The involvement of major Chinese KOLs has been proven to generate NFT hype. PHANTACi, a streetwear brand co-founded by Mandarin pop idol Jay Chou, issued its first NFT drop in January 2022. Titled “Phanta Bear,” the NFT was limited to 10,000 copies at $974.60 (6,200 RMB) each and sold out in 40 minutes; 3,000 sold within the first five. PHANTACi’s NFT practices have garnered wide public response via Weibo and WeChat, largely due to Chou’s personal influence. However, since the drop, audiences have voiced concerns regarding the KOL’s intentions, heralding the non-fungible release as a profit-focused strategy as opposed to one that celebrates creativity, innovation, and authenticity.
INSTYLE CHINA X GEN-Z CREATIVES
On March 12, InStyle China launched their new media platform, InStyle ICON, which will be co-created by Gen Z talents with multidisciplinary backgrounds. The debut issue features the first NFC magazine and the first NFT magazine cover in the country. The platform launch comes after InStyle China’s parent company, Modern Media Holdings Ltd., rebranded as Meta Media Holdings earlier this year. The rebrand signifies the agency’s initiative of becoming a leading player in the metaverse, following Haushang Media’s launch of digital magazine MO in collaboration with Alimama (a marketing department of the Alibaba group) that aims to specifically target the metaverse market. Now that Chinese fashion media has officially entered the digital battleground, NFT covers are becoming a plausible method for publications to stay culturally relevant and expand their readership into new avenues not possible via print.