How a Chinese heritage shoe brand is working with Tencent and TV shows
By Shen Li

Cross-industry collaboration is emerging as a new trend in China's fashion industry, and it's particularly important for well-known, time-honored brands as they attempt to inject new life into their lineage.

In a bid to bridge the gap between generations of shoe shoppers, Nei Lian Sheng, one of the oldest handmade cloth shoe brands in China, has started to update its look for a younger generation of fashion-conscious consumers who are looking for a little more spring in their step.

The hallowed brand has launched several cross-industry collaborations, including with Tencent's video game "Arena of Valor", animation film "Big Fish Begonia" and hit TV show "National Treasure".

Nei Lian Sheng handmade cloth shoes. /VCG Photo

Nei Lian Sheng handmade cloth shoes. /VCG Photo

Nei Lian Sheng's latest collection is aimed the hip urban male or female trendsetter in 2020, and features multicolored designs with Chinese elements.

Tattoo artist Lao Dao helped design the new line, hoping to upgrade the look of the shoes while staying consistent with the brand's heritage.

"For the upcoming Year of the Rat, I've designed a series of patterns for the shoe's specialty collections," said the artist, describing one pair of shoes featuring a "mouse holding a Ruyi, a ceremonial scepter, as an auspicious sign."

Established in 1853, Nei Lian Sheng is the oldest handmade cloth shoe brand in China and its "thousand-layer sole shoes" have been selected as part of China's Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Efforts to modernize the brand have been a key part of its strategy in the past 10 years, as marketing director Cheng Xu explains.

Nei Lian Sheng handmade cloth shoes. /VCG Photo

Nei Lian Sheng handmade cloth shoes. /VCG Photo

"It all started in 2006, when we had two major collaborations, one with Disney and the other with the Palace Museum. Nei Lian Sheng is a quality brand with deep Chinese roots. But now, it is the time to use a little more creativity in modernizing our designs to grow the household name into an international brand," he added.

But for all the changes seen at Nei Lian Sheng, the artistry involved in making the shoes has remained constant over the years.

"Like luxury brands in the west, Nei Lian Sheng was originally reserved for royalty, with tailor-made services. It was established a year ahead of Louis Vuitton and five years earlier than Burbery. I think we have the potential to create our own luxury brand," Cheng Xu added.

The brand has also hit e-commerce sites like T-mall to connect with a more fashion-forward audience.