Recently breaking box office records with a $108.5 million debut in North America, Minions was the first international IP to recognize the potential of Chinese ceramic brand Yeenjoy Studio. “They invited me to the Universal headquarters in Los Angeles and showed me the new movie in advance back in 2019,” explained founder and artist YiRan (a.k.a. K.Yee). “Our creations were still relatively independent at the time, but this cooperation allowed us to take a very important new step in our business.”
Although Minion incense burners might not be considered mainstream merchandise, they cleverly banked on China’s growing national pride when they launched in 2020. With Bob the Minion stylized in a Chinese outfit and Tai Chi pose, the limited-edition pieces celebrated tradition and porcelain craftsmanship.
Additionally, the incense burners capitalized on the market’s shift of luxury spending from fashion to homeware as a result of the pandemic. In fact, it is reported that more than 90 percent of households in China are recognized as homeowners, compared to 65 percent in the US. YiRan noted that the majority of Yeenjoy’s consumers fall under that category, aged between 30 and 40.
Since Minions tapped the opportunity, household names like Adidas, Porsche, Staple, Clot, Stayreal, Li-Ning and music company 88rising have all partnered with Yeenjoy on ceramic lines. The brand is becoming known as a streetwear collaborator, utilizing joint projects to extend its core identity of fusing Chinese craftsmanship and street culture; YiRan exclusively notes that a HUF line is on the way, as well as one with Chinese toy company Pop Mart.
However, the founder explained to Jing Daily that collaboration is not actually a core component of the brand’s strategy — it’s been a series of fortunate accidents so far. “More people know us through our joint corporations, but it actually accounts for less than one-twentieth of our products. Perhaps our original works have less exposure and marketing. Everyone just seems to know us through our joint-names.”
He added that it was unexpected that brands would keep reaching out for collaborations: “When it started, I was just expressing my love for street culture. Many people use graffiti or music to do that, but I wanted to use another tool that was inherently Chinese, which became ceramics. After all, all of those other things come from the Western world…I always wanted to be an art creator and not a trend-follower.”
In this spirit, the studio will soon open a 6,000-square-foot Yeenjoy Hotel later this year, reflecting its vision of selling a whole lifestyle. It’s fair to say that the collision of cult streetwear, art collector culture, and luxe homeware makes 2022 the ultimate Yeenjoy moment, and brands are taking note.
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