Fashion can be fickle, but the athleisure slash streetwear trend shows no sign of going anywhere soon. As Chinese society’s dress codes relax, it seems the fashions do too.
Once a subcultural movement, popular amongst skaters and surfers, streetwear now heavily influences the Chinese high street and luxury market. Slouchy tracksuit bottoms, bucket hats, Nike Air Max-ingzzz, oversized hoodies. The works.
WIll China’s streetwear hurdle the short fence or run track?
Spiking A Hip-Hop Fever
Partly responsible for the rise of street fashion in China, is the rise of hip-hop culture. Once upon a time, in a land far away, street fashion was frowned upon due to its connection with the rebellious hip-hop world. Swearing, drug references and political messages in this music were all firmly blocked by China’s Great Firewall. Resulting in a chilling effect on the genre with China’s censors in early 2018 clamping down on popular culture.
However, some of China’s artists have managed to hurdle the Firewall and this resulted in the rising demand for streetwear brands. “Yoho!” is one of the most influential platforms for hip-hop fans in the East. Nanjing-born Liang Chao, the man behind the brand, has cultivated a platform that caters to China’s youth market. Part publishing, part e-commerce and part business.
China’s urban youth drives much of the brands identity and over the years, ‘Yoho!’ has managed to stay ahead in this fast-changing market. yet as the market becomes increasingly crowded, it does more to stand out. Offline stores, magazines and pop-up meet ‘n greets; they seem prepared for whatever China’s Youth Power next demands, yo.
“The Rap Of China”, first brought to Mainland audiences in 2017, is a popular Chinese “reality” show which took the country by storm. It has taken hip-hop from the underground to mainstream, shooting contestants and their style to stardom. It’s broadcast on iQiyi (China’s Netflix).
Record-breaking shows like this are incredibly significant to brands, offering free marketing and product placement. And driving sales even further.
Red Box Logos Reign Supreme
Chinese shoppers are to this day notorious for their love of big luxury brands like Gucci and Prada, Nevertheless, Chinese millennials are on the prowl for more niche, high-end fashions that offer the comfort of the aforementioned brands, but differentiate them as individuals from previous generations. That’s where Supreme comes in. The brand’s iconic red box logo spread across the chests, phone cases and caps of countless Chinese millennials.
On the streets of Shanghai, it is increasingly common to see teens with various logos (real or fake, we’ll never know) with the Supreme one being a prime candidate.
Wherein lies the Supreme claim to fame? Well, you ask, we deliver, Supreme has been seen numerous times on Chinese influencers from the likes of actress slash singer Yang Mi and Victoria’s Secret model Ming Xi. China’s fashion- and trend-dictating Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) have a frenzy of young fans willing to pay over their budget to replicate their looks. Though Supreme has no physical store in China (the nearest one is located in Japan), fans turn to re-sellers to get the Supreme goods. Or they turn to fakes.
Not all these counterfeits are easy to spot, though. Manufacturers are able to produce replicas that can look and feel authentic, selling them below the real price tag. Counterfeiters have gone to extreme lengths to cash in on Supreme’s popularity, as proven when an entirely fake Supreme shop in 2018 opened its doors to willing customers in Shenzhen. The store has a permanent spot next to retail leaders UNIQLO and ZARA.
With price tags as low as 135 RMB for a hoodie — this fake shop is bound to attract real millennials on a budget.
The Land Of Luxury Streetwear?
The 2017 collaboration between Louis Vuitton and Supreme signaled a pretty big shake-up in the fashion world. The boundaries between luxury and streetstyle continue to blur. Though in China, this fluidity by no means seems to tarnish streetwear’s cool cred. The collaboration was a huge commercial success, proving highly popular amongst millennials.
Perhaps these collaborations are a fusion between quality and coolness. It’s been done by Alexander Wang X Adidas and Jimmy Choo X Off-White, with each new collab spiking plenty of buzz hums around Chinese social media. Luxury brands are stretching their heritage in order to adapt to the current streetwear trend.
A-list celebs too are involved in the streetwear boom, two big names include Kanye West’s Yeezy line and Rihanna’s Fenty X Puma collection. These celebs rock their streetwear brands on and off the catwalk. Tracksuit bottoms have become the new jeans; it’s not just a trend. Social media, a new breed of reality TV and a paparazzi culture means celebs are often rocking their ‘off-duty’ outfits as an everyday staple.
Streetwear fashion is a very promising one, that shows no sign of fading away any time soon. A growing number of Chinese youths are embracing the more relaxed and androgynous style.
Celebrity culture, TV shows and social media are helping to grow the success of streetwear, making it a mainstream style instead of a subculture.
this little piggy is headed for financial security in 2019. With luxury fashion now tapping into its success, branded streetwear now comes with a hefty price tag… Unless its fake, that is.
Edited by Elsbeth van Paridon
Featured Image: Courtesy of YOHO! Magazine, 2019. All rights reserved
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As a freelance journalist, she specializes in Chinese society and fashion, her fascination surrounding the East grew since living and working in a rural ex-fishing village on the outskirts of Shanghai.
Aspinall aims to capture a sense of the colourful and dynamic contemporary China, which continues to revolutionise and evolve.
Aspinall holds an English Literature degree from Sheffield University. She explored the literary canon, starting with old English and ending with the contemporary period, her area of speciality and research is post-war British social realism. While studying, she also on gained experience at the BBC, local publishing houses and copy edited the student newspaper.
Since moving to China, she has written regularly for Temper Magazine,The Shanghaiist and her personal blog. Her interests include gender fluidity, the modern representation of women, sustainability and the underground scene in China.