Collaborations between fashion brands aren’t unusual, however when a brand that has nothing to do with fashion says it’s going into the clothes business, it’s bound to receive a bit of suspicion.
This spring, a well-known Chinese cold medicine by the name of 999 announced its first sartorial endeavour through Weibo
, revealing sketches of stretchy, sleeveless 999-branded jumpsuits printed with phrases like ‘never-cold teenager’ (不凉少年) and ‘health-conscious punk’ (养生朋克). One piece from the ‘collection’ called Chuanjiu Baolin (穿久保灵) is a play on the Chinese pronunciation of Japanese designer Rei Kawakubo, whose brand Comme des Garçons is popular throughout China.
But since February, there haven’t been any other follow-ups and the jumpsuits are nowhere to be found in retail, making the whole thing seem like a big PR bluff. However, this isn’t the first time a Chinese brand that has little association with fashion has tried to cross the boundary.
In 2018, during New York Fashion Week’s China Day, a pop-up shop event organised by T-Mall, the clear standout was a hoodie
printed with Laoganma logos, the ubiquitous chilli sauce that produces 1.3 million bottles every single day. The pop-up also sold sweatshirts printed with labels of pain-relief cream Yunnan Baiyao. Both guohuo
brands received loads of positive feedback on social media after the stunt.
Again this spring at NYFW, more unexpected Chinese brands appeared at pop-ups and on runways as part of China Day. Tsingtao worked with Chinese fashion brand NPC to create a streetwear collection called One Hundred Years of Chinese Trends (百年国潮), and Harbin Beer collaborated with athletic-wear brand PONY, showcasing a futuristic winter look.
Another very unexpected (but affordable) collab is between sportswear brand LI-NING, by the retired gymnast of the same name, and domestic luxury car brand Hongqi, which was favoured by Chinese leaders like Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping. The collab sees a Hongqi car emblazoned on the backs of the LI-NING hoodies with the characters for ‘Made in China.’
Fun way to stir up nostalgia or pure marketing gimmick? Maybe the tactic is a bit of both but wherever you stand, for these domestic household brands that have used fashion as a way to reconnect with younger consumers, it seems to be working.