21 January 2020 From Courier Issue 33 (Feb/Mar 2020)

Unboxing China’s streetwear brands

The rise of China's domestic streetwear scene – and the brands you need to know.

 

In 2018, Nielsen reported a 62% increase in Chinese spending on streetwear over the previous year. An army of domestic brands have emerged that now compete with the likes of Supreme and Off-White for the yuan of young consumers. Here’s a look at the domestic streetwear brands influencing consumer trends in China.

01. Classic brand

Li-Ning is an old-school sportswear brand founded in 1990 by the eponymous Mr Li Ning, a former Olympic gymnast. The brand’s sneakers (pictured) are worn by at least a dozen NBA players, including Dwayne Wade. In 2018, Wade signed a lifetime contract with Li-Ning, having worn his own model since 2012. The Beijing-based company recently presented fashion-focused collections and collaborations at Paris and New York fashion weeks. Much of it inspired by its sporting history – Li-Ning has designed the athletic kit for China’s national sports teams since the 1990s. Highsnobiety is a fan, saying that the brand has ‘found a solid footing by rebranding national nostalgia’.

02. Local labels

Domestic streetwear brands with a cult following include Roaringwild, launched in 2010 by a group of uni friends in Shenzhen; SANKUANZ, a Xiamen-based label founded by designer Shanguan Zhe; and Reshake, founded in Shanghai in 2013.

03. West-meets-East

In November 2019, UK streetwear brand Palace launched a three-day pop-up in Shanghai’s Arkham nightclub to kick off the launch of its dedicated e-commerce shop on Tmall.

04. Conferences

Large Chinese streetwear conventions include InNersect and Yo’Hood in Shanghai – the latter, founded in 2013, is run by the youth-focused media and e-commerce company Yoho!. This latest edition saw more than 50,000 attendees. Yoho! has gained a cult following since launching in 2005. Its multifaceted empire includes physical stores, a WeChat platform and an e-commerce site (‘Yoho! Buy’). Yoho! has also recently partnered with the UK media brand Dazed to launch a Chinese version of the magazine.