Inside Rick Owens’ China strategy

    An outlier famed for his niche aesthetic and steadfast cult following, Rick Owens is making a valiant stand against the over-commercialization of luxury. But how is the brand keeping alive in China?
    Fashion designer Rick Owens walks the runway during the Rick Owens Menswear Fall/Winter 2020-2021 show. Image: Getty Images

    What happened #

    Rick Owens is no stranger to stopping the fashion set in its tracks. During the recent Paris Fashion Week Men’s season, the designer’s collection disrupted the Spring/Summer 2025 status quo with a 200-person parade calling for peace.

    The collection, coined “Hollywood,” took place in the crowded Art Deco courtyards of the Palais de Tokyo, Paris’ audacious contemporary art center and a notoriously popular spot for brands during the city’s Fashion Week calendar.

    Models, which included fashion school students alongside runway regulars, marched through the center’s grounds wrapped in gauzy knit bodysuits, silk hooded capes, and Dune-esque gilded headpieces in cream-clad troupes.

    At one point, a large apparatus – carried by 10 men in matching gym shorts, tank tops and the brand’s staple Geobasket ankle boots – emerged featuring models in spidery leotards contorting themselves around the sculpture.

    Indeed, the spectacle made noise online in the West. It also went down well with China’s netizens.

    “Rather than a fashion show, it felt more like an art performance,” posted netizen @Opensourcesense. “With Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony playing, it made me think of religious processions or scenes from a sci-fi movie.”

    “It has the vibe of a space opera,” wrote @Qingshezhi2-24gezifu (请设置2-24个字符).

    Rick Owens' Spring/Summer 2025 showcase featured 200 models, including students. Image: Getty Images
    Rick Owens' Spring/Summer 2025 showcase featured 200 models, including students. Image: Getty Images

    The Jing Take#

    The Rick Owens brand, co-owned by the eponymous American designer and his wife Michèle Lamy, has forged a significant cult presence across the mainland.

    Since launching in 1994, Owens’ iconoclastic, avant-garde designs have become wardrobe staples among China’s fashion-forward consumers and style savants. The designer was one of the first international trailblazers to expand into Asia back in 2009 after putting down roots with its flagship in Tokyo. Today, the brand has three official storefronts across the continent, its largest being in Hong Kong.

    While its physical presence may remain small, the brand boasts an impressive following on local social platforms. The hashtag #RickOwens has amassed over 130 million views on Xiaohongshu, alongside 75 million views on Weibo. Meanwhile, its official flagship store on Tmall’s Luxury Pavilion has over 66,000 followers.

    The brand opened its Hong Kong flagship in 2015. Image: Rick Owens
    The brand opened its Hong Kong flagship in 2015. Image: Rick Owens

    That said, unlike many luxury brands, which have pivoted to gaining mainstream appeal via celebrity endorsements and peddling mass-market products, Rick Owens is an outlier. The company doesn’t kit out influencers, keeps its marketing to a minimum, and has a modest total of 11 freestanding boutiques scattered globally.

    Similarly, the brand’s product strategy relies on limited runs of highly curated collections, appealing to China’s luxury shoppers who seek exclusivity. It’s a stark contrast to competitors who have, in recent years, began rolling out extensive collections and retail expansions to capture the Chinese market.

    How does the radical disruptor maintain its presence across the mainland in such a competitive market?

    Its multi-channel distribution strategy via local retailers plays a notable role. Last year, the brand began stocking a handful of its products in Beijing’s new ENG Concept flagship, located in new buzzy shopping destination The Box, to engage with China’s culturally tapped-in crowd. According to the retailer, the label is one of the best selling brands in the store.

    Fans of Rick Owens are fueling the brand's impressive social media presence in China. Image: Xiaohongshu
    Fans of Rick Owens are fueling the brand's impressive social media presence in China. Image: Xiaohongshu

    Rick Owens has benefited heavily from adopting an organic approach across China in lieu of huge marketing pushes. But it still has a very distinct localization strategy for when it does roll out promotions.

    Last year, for instance, the label took part in Tmall’s 618 shopping festival for the first time, focusing on product advertisement as opposed to slashing prices. The brand joined Tmall’s Luxury Pavillion platform last year to keep up with China’s changing post-pandemic consumer preferences towards digital-first experiences.

    Its participation in the event is just one example of how the brand is investing in boosting its visibility in China. It’s also a way for the company to maintain its competitive edge against a swelling backdrop of new local and international designers, such as Lemaire, Ann Demeulemeester, and Yohji Yamamoto.

    Though the brand doesn't publicly announce its profits or performance for individual markets, its popularity online and on the streets of China indicates that its reputation remains strong across the mainland – success that stems from remaining fiercely independent and on the pulse of its core clientele.

    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.

    Discover more
    Daily BriefAnalysis, news, and insights delivered to your inbox.