Every month, we look back at some of the most memorable initiatives in China’s active brand collaboration scene, where creativity and ability to connect with Gen Z and millennial consumers on the latest trends are keys to success.
Top Pick: Longchamp x Emotionally Unavailable
In keeping with the trend of international luxury brands collaborating with cutting-edge partners connected to the Chinese fashion scene, France’s Longchamp announced a collection with the label Emotionally Unavailable (EU), which was founded by singer-turned-streetwear entrepreneur Edison Chen and designer Kybum Lee.
Taking its inspiration from the sport of boxing, the unisex collection of classic Pliage handbags and streetwear plays on the Longchamp brand name with the slogan “Been a champ a long time” splashed across the products, along with the logos of both brands. Referencing the sport more directly, it also includes pajama-like silky robe tops and shorts. The boxing ring features prominently in a short brand film and images promoting the collection, sharing a co-branded narrative of emotional battlegrounds.
“This joint series is about heartbreak, deep love, and inner strength,” said Chen. “We are always struggling with various relationships and feelings.”
Fortuitous encounters reportedly led to the collaboration. Longchamp’s longtime artistic director Sophie Delafontaine discovered EU while shopping during a trip to Shanghai, and she later met Edison Chen by chance in Japan, where they hit it off.
While Longchamp is best known for its classic tote bags, in recent years it has aimed for a transformation into a lifestyle brand, launching ready-to-wear in 2019 and releasing collabs with the likes of Jeremy Scott and Pokémon. Its latest collection extends further into this realm with comfortable pieces made for lounging, or sparring.
Five more noteworthy collaborations from March 2021:
Peacebird Men x Rick and Morty x Joshua Vides
For brands with the means, three-way partnerships are becoming increasingly popular in China, as they offer a way to heighten the creative intensity and stand out from the crowd of one-on-one collaborations.
Hot on the heels of its latest “SuperChina” release with six independent domestic brands for its womenswear line, Peacebird’s mens’ brand opened a pop-up exhibit at Fiu Gallery in Shanghai to showcase a collaboration with American artist Joshua Vides, who reimagined the adult animation “Rick and Morty” through the lens of his signature black-and-white aesthetic. Peacebird teased the product drops through a series of animated videos on Weibo, depicting the gallery space as a two-dimensional “freak lab” where surprises will be hidden in every corner.
All of the parties involved have been deeply engaged in the brand collaboration space: Peacebird’s recent partnerships include Pokémon and old-school Chinese sneaker brand Feiyue, Vides has worked with the likes of Fendi, Converse, Mercedes-Benz, and Nike, while Rick and Morty have become favorites of Madison Avenue, promoting products such as Wrangler jeans and Sony’s Playstation 5.
Even Fiu Gallery has a strong commercial bent, described as more of a concept space that stays “close to the lifestyle of young people” by making art accessible and affordable through merchandise.
Off-White x Amorepacific
Collaborations with streetwear brands are still hot in China as companies seek to target Gen Z and millennial consumers. Luxury K-beauty brand Amorepacific recently jumped on this trend, partnering with Italian fashion label Off-White to launch a special-edition box in China, Japan and South Korea.
The set included an Off-White logo face mask and beauty products tailored for Asian consumers, including sheet masks and an air cushion sunscreen. In China, Amorepacific released the box in China via Alibaba’s Tmall Global. The cosmetics company hopes that collaboration with Off-White will introduce its luxury beauty products to a target audience of younger streetwear-obsessed consumers that were not previously familiar with the K-beauty brand.
H&M x Simone Rocha
Shortly before H&M found itself at the center of controversy over the use (or non-use) of cotton sourced from Xinjiang, its collaboration with Irish designer Simone Rocha was a huge hit, crashing the retailer’s WeChat mini program, app and website after its March 11 midnight debut. In the run-up to the launch, the collaboration had been promoted through livestreams on Tmall’s Hey Live platform as well as by various fashion KOLs, including actress Song Zuer (@宋祖儿lareina, 15 million followers) and @SunnieLovesFashion (four million).
H&M’s design collaborations have a history of doing well in the Chinese market, often selling out after release. Simone Rocha’s fairytale aesthetic and feminine designs, such as tulle dresses and ribbon & pearl-embellished accessories, particularly appealed to Gen Z consumers, which added to the popularity of the collab, which generated 8.7 million views and 11,000 comments on Weibo.
Volvo x Durex
Automaker Volvo and condom brand Durex made an unusual pairing for March 14, aka “White Day,” one month after the Western Valentine’s Day. The two brands collaborated on a futuristic short film that asks whether technology will cause people to lose touch with reality. The story follows two people who break out of a dystopian, high-tech world and escape to Durex 001 Island, where they embrace and are able to feel human emotions such as love once more. Their getaway car is a Volvo XC40.
The film’s message of authentic connection amid cutting-edge technology struck a chord, drawing 130 million views on Weibo and turning its hashtag ((#沃尔沃杜蕾斯官宣) into a trending topic on the platform. Durex has gained a reputation for marketing that pushes the envelope, with Chinese regulators fining the brand last year for one sexually charged ad that allegedly “disrupted social order.”
GXG x Pop Mart x Lin Hui
Chinese menswear retailer GXG and designer toy brand Pop Mart worked with artist Lin Hui to create a new line of the toymaker’s popular “blind boxes,” in which specific contents are only revealed after purchase. Each box holds a GXG-designed T-shirt and a doll, both based on Lin Hui’s Japanese-style animated fish illustrations.
The blind boxes transcended the online sphere, drawing consumers to offline spaces as well. GXG made deliberate marketing choices in this regard, including a partnership with a Japanese chain restaurant, with hopeful buyers waiting in long lines to score a box. The clothing brand also played up the emotional appeal of the blind box by adding a storyline about the characters and designing a new line of shirts specifically for the collaboration.