Banking on Consumption: How do Chinese street fashion brands take off?
By CGTN's Global Business
04:03

Shopping for new outfits has long been one of the pre-Lunar New Year traditions in China. When it comes to clothes, more and more young people in the country are turning to home-grown street fashion brands.

Foreign street fashion brands were introduced to China in the late 1990s. They helped promote street culture in China and spurred local street fashion brands — including New Project Center (NPC). 

NPC was founded about ten years ago by entertainment show host Li Chen and pop singer Wilber Pan. The founder wanted it to be the birthplace of new brands. The brand soon occupied more than half of the Chinese fashion brand retailing market, in the meantime, witnessed the development of original domestic street fashion brands. 

"I was obsessed with street fashion myself and have always dreamed of establishing my own brand. However, what bothered us back then was how to sell our products," Li said.

NPC's founders, entertainment show host Li Chen (L) and pop singer Wilber Pan (R). /VCG Photo

NPC's founders, entertainment show host Li Chen (L) and pop singer Wilber Pan (R). /VCG Photo

"E-commerce was not as developed as today and buyer shops were also rare. Plus, opening my own store was not something I could afford," Li added.

Li came up with the idea of running a store together with other designers, selling various Chinese street fashion brands. But the business didn't go smoothly in the beginning.

"The products we used to sell… they were mostly poor in quality and lacked unique designs. But luckily, the brands get to grow with the market and the customers. I think NPC gave hope to young people by letting them know that as long as they have good ideas and designs, they have a chance to take a spot in our shop," said Li.

Meanwhile, the designers are realizing that they have to distinguish themselves with real cultural roots to stay competitive. 

The Wu Dao sneakers by Chinese sportswear brand Li Ning were inspired by traditional Chinese culture. The sneakers wowed the market after their debut at last year's New York Fashion Week. 

"I was reading the classic Buddhist text Diamond Sutra when we were planning the product. Wu Dao was the word I often came across in the book. It is annotated as ‘understanding the philosophy of life', meaning that people need to figure out the things they really want to do to achieve the best state of life,” said Zhou Shijie, representative for Li Ning Shoe Designing Team.

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China's original street fashion designers are lucky enough to have a rapidly expanding market. Financial news portal Yicai's data center "CBN Data" reported that last year the money spent on clothes made by Chinese designers increased 450 percent year-on-year.

The data also indicated that people born after the 1990s favor creative products that highlight distinctiveness, and contributed 65 percent to the purchase of those clothes created by Chinese designers. 

However, some say speed means bubbles. Chinese culture elements are still often abused instead of being appropriately embedded. It's not easy for young brands to keep from getting lost in the fast-changing market.

"For the future, first of all, we will continue to promote and flesh out the culture of the young as a lifestyle, not just outfits. Secondly, we will improve the quality of products, secure our supply chain and collect good designs. Thirdly, we will focus on the offline retailing, making our stores places for young people to learn about fashion and interact with each other,” Li advised.