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“Made in China” Fashion – Forever Doomed?

‘Chinese fashion’ is a hot topic on China’s social media platforms this week. China fashion expert Elsbeth van Paridon hopefully wishes the MET gala throws another Chinoiserie ball in a decade or so. Is “Made in China” Fashion doomed?

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‘Chinese fashion’ is a hot topic on China’s social media platforms this week. China fashion writer Elsbeth van Paridon hopefully wishes the MET gala throws another Chinoiserie ball in a decade or so.

It was a wild week in the world of China fashion news. First, popstar Katy Perry draped herself in a   Taiwanese flag at a Taipei concert. Then Su Mang, one of China’s most influential fashion figures, spoke at the 2015 Harvard China Forum about the future of Chinese fashion. Most controversially, the famous A-list ball at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York called on celebrities to dress for the theme of Chinese influences on western fashion at the beginning of May. The ball became trending on Sina Weibo and dominated Weixin discussions. Many Chinese netizens ridiculed the outfits of America’s celebrities, like Sarah Jessica Parker, who ‘looked like a Beijing Olympics mascotte’, or Rihanna, whose dress resembled ‘a Chinese omelette’ according to Weibo’s netizens.

Elsbeth van Paridon is a sinologist and China fashion writer. She is based in Beijing since 2010, and works in the fashion industry. She gives her view on this week’s happenings for What’s on Weibo:

 

Chinoiserie: Friend or Foe?

 

b8ac6f27b00016b3a4b801Rihanna’s dress, mocked by Chinese netizens for ‘resembling a Chinese omelette’.

Monday May 4 stood out in many a fashion-aficionado/a’s calendar as the annual outlandish couture fest (or frenzy, perhaps) that is the Met Gala rolled out the red carpet once again, sporting the theme “Chinoiserie” (one that many avant-gardists related to China fashion had awaited with baited breath — not this one though, I’m slightly skeptical when it comes to Queen Bey and the likes showing us their take on the wardrobe pick-of-the-season, no offense Your Madgesty).

Now, in hindsight, let me make an attempt to be politically correct in summarizing the A-list peacock feathers du jour: opinions were definitely divided. I’m the first one to agree that Fashion is the Land of Freedom and any take on a specific theme should be completely and utterly personal; but as I stood peering through the looking glass, I had a hard time spotting the ‘Chinois’ in the whole thing. And when the China flash did appear, it gave off somewhat of the “very average design school graduation project idea”, as Beijing designer Iris Wang put it: more tragic than transcendent.

 

Will the label “Made in China” forever be doomed?

 

Then, lo and behold, what are the chances…Coincidence or not (probably the latter, I do get that), a few days prior to the photo-opp of the year, on May 1, the Harvard China Forum hosted a talk on China fashion, and more specifically asked itself: Is China still able to fulfill and live its dream of becoming the reigning Queen Bee of the International Fashion Hive? Or will the label “Made in China” forever be doomed to burn in Vogue purgatory? E-commerce in China, i.e. purchasing your Monday outfit on ultra-popular sites such as Taobao and Alibaba, is thriving; yet that ain’t got that real Alexander McQueen feel to it, now does it?

 

160045_1306606.jpg.800x533_q95_crop-smart_upscaleSu Mang speaking at the Harvard Forum.

Both entrepreneurship and fashion remain relatively new concepts in China anno 2015. One-woman-powerhouse Su Mang, President and CEO of Trends Media Group, has been working in the industry for almost two decades now, and impeccably dressed, she had her say at the forum. In the early 2000s, with China fashion in its newborn stages one might say, Su took on her first job as editor-in-chief and founded “Bazaar in China, and embarked upon a period to which she refers as being one of “trial and error”. Heading a crew of no more than 30 at the publication, she started weaving the little silk she had been given and over the next decade “saw China fashion growing into an increasingly powerful tool able to influence artists, musicians, dresses to the stars and thus the clothing trends of hundreds of thousands across the nation”. Again, that all happened within the span of merely ten years. Not too shabby.

 

“China will grow into its own style.”

 

Putting the final hemlines on her discourse, Su pointed out how her fiercely fiery dreams regarding China’s fashionable development are by no means slowing down, let alone been diminished to cinders, on the contrary: the Fashion Dragon roars (I’m slightly paraphrasing here; thought it sounded more passionate, anyhoo). “After all, who is to say what fashion really is? Is it merely couture; or does it cover a wider range of clothing[racks]? China will grow into its own style mode; let’s just see what that will be. But in no way does it end here.” Amen to that, Su.

Maybe the MET should have another “China-do” in another decade then. Let’s wait and see.”

_82774782_82767298British model Cara Delevingne was covered in fake floral tattoos as she arrived for the gala. As reported by BBC’s Saira Asher and Heather Chen, the Weibo verdict: “Those fake flower tattoos – Frightening!“, and: “Aren’t cherry blossoms Japanese?

 

By Elsbeth van Paridon
Follow What’s on Weibo on Twitter

 

Images:

http://www.thecrimson.com/image/2015/4/27/sumangchinaforum/
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-32586993

Elsbeth van Paridon is a sinologist and fashion writer. Since 2010, she has been living in Beijing, where she has become an expert on all the ins and outs of the world of China fashion. She has her own blog on China fashion: Chasing the Fashion Dragon.

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China Food & Drinks

Would You Like Coffee with Your Sneakers? Chinese Sports Brand Li-Ning Registers Its ‘Ning Coffee’ Brand

Li-Ning enters the coffee market: “Will they sell sneaker-flavored coffee?”

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An unexpected competitor is joining China’s coffee market. With over 7000 stores in the country, Li-Ning has the potential to become the biggest athletic coffee chain yet.

Another player is joining mainland China’s growing coffee market. It’s not an American coffee giant, nor a coffee house chain from Hong Kong – it is China’s leading sportswear brand Li-Ning Sports (李宁体育).

Li-Ning registered its coffee brand under the ‘NING COFFEE’ trademark. As reported in an article written by ‘Investment Group’ (@投资界) and published by Toutiao News (@头条新闻), Li-Ning has confirmed on May 6 that it will provide in-store coffee services to enhance customers’ shopping experiences in the near future.

The move means that Li-Ning could potentially become a big player in China’s coffee market, competing with major brands such as Starbucks, Luckin Coffee, Costa and Pacific. If the in-store coffee cafes would roll out in most of its shops, there could be over 7000 Ning Coffee cafes in China in the future. By the end of 2021, Li-Ning Sports had a total of 7,137 stores in China.

Starbucks has 5,400 stores in China. Leading domestic coffee chain Luckin Coffee expanded to over 6000 stores last year. Costa Coffee, although closing some of its China stores in 2021, announced that it aims to have a total of 1,200 stores open in China later this year. Looking at Li-Ning’s presence across China, its in-store coffee cafes could be serious competition for the leading coffee chains in the country.

Over the past few years, various Chinese sportswear brands, including Anta Sports and Erke, have seen a rise in popularity, but Li-Ning is still China’s most famous brand name for athletic apparel and shoes. The company was founded in the early 1990s by Chinese Olympic gymnast and business entrepreneur Li Ning (1963) and was generally seen as a Nike copycat – the original logo was even similar to the Nike swoosh. Although Li-Ning looked like Nike, the brand is more appealing to many Chinese consumers due to the fact that it is cheaper and made in China.

Li-Ning markets itself as being “deeply and uniquely Chinese” (Li Ning official website 2022), which has made it more popular in an era of “proudly made in China” (read more about that here). Moreover, it also promises to offer high-quality sportwear at a price that is cheaper than the American Nike or German Adidas.

Li-Ning’s success is also owed to its marketing strategies. Besides being the official marketing partner of many major sports events, including the NBA in China, the brand has also contracted with many household athletes and famous global ambassadors.

Over a decade ago, marketing observers already noted that despite the remarkable success of Li-Ning in China, the brand still had a long way to go in order to strengthen its image as a long-term brand, recommending Li-Ning to “create excitement around the brand” by building more associations related to lifestyle and coolness to better resonate with younger Chinese customers (Bell 2008, 81; Roll 2006, 170).

With its latest move into the coffee market, it is clear that Li-Ning is moving its brand positioning more toward the direction of lifestyle, trendiness, and luxury. Although purchasing a coffee at Starbucks or Luckin is part of the everyday routine for many urban millennials, coffee is still viewed as a trendy luxury product for many, relating to both cultural factors as well as economic reasons. As noted by Cat Hanson in 2015, the price of a single cup of coffee was equal to a month’s worth of home broadband internet (read more).

Previously, other fashion brands have also opened up coffee stores in China. As reported by Jing Daily, international luxury brands Prada, Louis Vuitton, and FENDI also opened up coffee cafes in mainland China.

Another unexpected coffee cafe is that of China Post, which opened its first in-store ‘Post Coffee’ in Xiamen earlier this year. On social media, many netizens commented that the brand image of the national post service clashed with that of a fairly expensive coffee house (coffee prices starting at 22 yuan / $3,3).

“The postal services are located in cities and in the countryside and are often used by migrant workers, and generally this demographic isn’t buying coffee,” one person commented, with another netizen writing: “This does not suit the taste of ordinary people, it would’ve been better if they sold milk tea.”

Post Coffee, via Jiemian Official.

On Weibo, Li-Ning’s journey into the competitive coffee market was discussed using the hashtags “Li-Ning Enters the Coffee Race” (#李宁入局咖啡赛道#) and “Li-Ning Starts Selling Coffee” (##李宁开始卖咖啡##).

Like with China Post, many commenters say the combination of sportswear and coffee is not something they immediately find logical. “Will they also sell sneaker-flavored coffee?” one person wondered, with others thinking selling coffee – seen as a product from western countries – does not exactly match with Li-Ning as a ‘proudly made-in-China’ brand.

“How would you feel about trying on some clothes at Li-Ning while sipping on Li-Ning coffee? I understand Li-Ning is jumping on what’s popular, and this time it’s coffee,” one Weibo user writes, with others also writing: “I think it has potential.”

“I’m willing to try it out,” various commenters write. For others, they want to see the menu first: “It all depends on the price.”

For more about the coffee and tea market in China, check our other articles here.

By Manya Koetse

Get the story behind the hashtag. Subscribe to What’s on Weibo here to receive our weekly newsletter and get access to our latest articles:

References

Bell, Sandra. 2008. International Brand Management of Chinese Companies. Heidelberg: Physia-Verlag.

Roll, Martin. 2006. Asian Brand Strategy: How Asia Builds Strong Brands. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

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©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China and Covid19

King of Workout Livestream: Liu Genghong Has Become an Online Hit During Shanghai Lockdown

Liu Genghong (Will Liu) is leading his best lockdown life.

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With their exercise livestreams, Liu and his wife are bringing some positive vibes to Shanghai and the rest of China in Covid times, getting thousands of social media users to jump along with them.

On Friday, April 22, the hashtag “Why Has Liu Genghong Become An Online Hit” (#为什么刘畊宏突然爆火#) was top trending on Chinese social media platform Weibo.

Liu Genghong (刘畊宏, 1972), who is also known as Will Liu, is a Taiwanese singer and actor who is known for playing in dramas (Pandamen 熊貓人), films (True Legend 苏乞儿), and releasing various music albums (Rainbow Heaven 彩虹天堂). He is a devout Christian.

Besides all of his work in the entertainment business, Liu is also a fitness expert. In 2013, Liu participated in the CCTV2 weight loss programme Super Diet King (超级减肥王, aka The Biggest Loser) as a motivational coach, and later also became a fitness instructor for the Jiangsu TV show Changing My Life (减出我人生), in which he also helped overweight people to become fit. After that, more fitness programs followed, including the 2017 Challenge the Limit (全能极限王) show.

During the Covid outbreak in Shanghai, the 50-year-old Liu Genghong has unexpectedly become an online hit for livestreaming fitness routines from his home. Together with his wife Vivi Wang, he streams exercise and dance videos five days of the week via the Xiaohongshu app and Douyin.

In his livestreams, Liu and his wife appear energetic, friendly, happy and super fit. They exercise and dance to up-beat songs while explaining and showing their moves, often encouraging those participating from their own living rooms (“Yeah, very good, you’re doing well!”). Some of their livestreams attract up to 400,000 viewers tuning in at the same time.

The couple, both in lockdown at their Shanghai home, try to motivate other Shanghai residents and social media users to stay fit. Sometimes, Liu’s 66-year-old mother in law also exercises with them, along with the children.

“I’ve been exercising watching Liu and his wife for half an hour, they’re so energetic and familiar, they’ve already become my only family in Shanghai,” one Weibo user says.

“I never expected Liu Genghong to be a ‘winner’ during this Covid epidemic in Shanghai,” another person writes.

Along with Liu’s online success, there’s also a renewed interest in the Jay Chou song Herbalist’s Manual (本草纲目), which is used as a workout tune, combined with a specific dance routine. Liu is also a good friend and fitness pal to Taiwanese superstar Jay Chou.

This week, various Chinese news outlets such as Fengmian News and The Paper have reported on Liu’s sudden lockdown success. Livestreaming workout classes in general have become more popular in China since the start of Covid-19, but there reportedly has been no channel as popular as that of Liu Genghong.

The channel’s success is partly because of Liu’s fame and contagious enthusiasm, but it is also because of Vivi Wang, whose comical expressions during the workouts have also become an online hit.

While many netizens are sharing their own videos of exercizing to Liu’s videos, there are also some who warn others not to strain themselves too quickly.

“I’ve been inside for over 40 days with no exercise” one person writes: “I did one of the workouts yesterday and my heart nearly exploded.” “I feel fine just watching,” others say: “I just can’t keep up.”

Watch one of Liu’s routines via Youtube here, or here, or here.

For more articles on the Covid-19 topics on Chinese social media, check here.

By Manya Koetse

Get the story behind the hashtag. Subscribe to What’s on Weibo here to receive our weekly newsletter and get access to our latest articles:

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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