What Happened: Back in 2004, Hello Kitty celebrated its 30th anniversary by dropping a collaboration with Nike, co-designing a playful take on the Air Presto silhouette. Originally, there was supposed to be a limited batch of 500 pairs released, but in the end, there were just 12 pairs of the four colorways given to family and friends. Now, almost 20 years on, the famously elusive “unicorn” sneakers are being rereleased on May 2. The price premium currently on StockX is at 72 percent which hints to the collectible quality.
Even the most studious of sneakerheads around the world haven’t managed to see the collaboration in the flesh until now, making this return one of the most anticipated in a long time; especially in China, where the Hello Kitty character has its own restaurant in Beijing, theme park in Zhejiang Province, and soon to be a hotel in Hainan opening in 2025. That, combined with the fact that Nike has reportedly seen a 300 percent growth in China over the past decade according to a report by McKinsey, suggests that this is definitely a collab-to-watch in the mainland.
The Jing Take: First and foremost, Chinese netizens have taken to social media to discuss how ugly the Hello Kitty Nike Air Presto is, illustrating how this collaboration is designed as a novelty collector’s item above anything else. The fact that such a distinctly unattractive shoe has taken over headlines globally this month portrays just how much marketing power limited quantity collaborations have, especially ones which are distributed with a slow, teaser-filled pre-release period — news on the ‘04 sneakers returning has been being rolling out slowly since August 2021, with an accompanying apparel lookbook revealed in January 2022.
Another factor which is likely to influence the popularity in China surrounding this drop is the fact that nostalgic collaborations have been thriving as a result of the ongoing pandemic. In China, in particular, consumers are engaging with familiarity for comfort; as Daxue Consulting reported in 2021, Hello Kitty itself has grown to have an adult consumer base in China due to the appeal of it stirring fond childhood memories.
But, how many people are actually talking about it in China right now? Mentions for Hello Kitty on Weibo jumped over 20 times when the release date was announced, although according to the same social listening data from Vfluencer, there have been just 33 organic posts about this collaboration in 2022 to date. The actual reveal will be on resale sites this week. Time will tell if the Hello Kitty x Nike collab has killed the hype machine by releasing too many pairs of such a highly-coveted design. Nike’s soaring popularity, combined with the nostalgia of Hello Kitty, makes it seem the perfect moment to sell these sneakers in the mainland — and beyond.
The Jing Take reports on a piece of the leading news and presents our editorial team’s analysis of the key implications for the luxury industry. In the recurring column, we analyze everything from product drops and mergers to heated debate sprouting on Chinese social media.