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3 co-branding cases that expose China’s fashion trends

In the fashion industry, cross-brand partnerships are an important tool to create buzz and boost sales. According to the 2021 Global Fashion White Paper, the number of online fashion IP co-branded goods increased by more than 10% from 2019 to 2021 and the unit price of online fashion IP co-branded consumption in 2021 increased by nearly three times compared to 2019.

Meanwhile, according to the White Paper on China’s Fashion Industry 2022, China’s fashion industry has already entered the stage of emotional consumption, with Millennials and Generation Z imposing themselves as the main drivers of sales. Those young consumers tend to prefer co-branded products because they are perceived as more exclusive and unique. Thus, co-branding initiatives are one of the main ways that brands are using to communicate with Chinese Gen Z consumers.

Here are the Top 3 most interesting brand collaborations in China in 2022, through which we can see how co-branding partnerships help create exclusivity and boost sales, as well as what makes a co-branding initiative successful.

Louis Vuitton × Yayoi Kusama

Combining fashion and art

Louis Vuitton is a French fashion house founded in 1854 by Louis Vuitton. The brand’s products range from handbag and luxury suitcases, leather goods shoes, watches, jewelry, accessories, sunglasses, and even books. Since first entering the market in 1992, Louis Vuitton has been in China for 28 years. On November 29th 2022, Louis Vuitton released a short trailer on Weibo, officially announcing its new collaboration with renowned Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, who is called ‘the princess of polka dots’. The combination of art and fashion will greatly enhance the appeal of the product. This partnership is expected to cover the full range of Louis Vuitton ‘s male and female categories and focus on both classic bags and new bags. The full co-branded collection will be available from January 2023. However, it is already drawn great attention from Chinese consumers.

brand collaborations in China: Louis Vuitton × Yayoi Kusama
Source: Weibo, Louis Vuitton × Yayoi Kusama

Partnerships with Chinese celebrities and KOLs

To increase popularity of this cooperation, Louis Vuitton has taken good use of KOL marketing. From December 2022 on, dozens of celebrities and influencers on Weibo shared the pictures of Louis Vuitton and Yayoi Kusama cooperation handbags, giving good recommendations to fans. Moreover, according to Fashion Business Express, Louis Vuitton has announced actor Hedi Wang as its new brand ambassador, who currently has about 17.3 million followers on Weibo, and released a short video featuring him in the “Louis Vuitton X Yayoi Kusama” collaboration series, which received more than 700,000 reposts and nearly 450,000 likes within an hour. As of January 3rd 2023, the tagline #Louis Vuitton × Yayoi Kusama# stood in the spotlight on Weibo, receiving about 220 million views

Source: Weibo, Chinese celebrity promoting Louis Vuitton × Yayoi Kusama co-branded handbags

Welly Merck × Dunhuang Art Institute(敦煌美术研究院)

Relying on local talents

Welly Merck is a Chinese watch brand, advocating the brand concept of “YOUR OWN MOMENT(自在此刻)”. The brand relies on local talents and bases on original design, constantly innovating fashion watches styles. Welly Merck focuses on the cultural connotations of products to create unique selling points.

On July 18th 2022, Welly Merck and the Gansu-based Dunhuang Art Institute approved by the Dunhuang Municipal government, launched Dunhuang series of watches. Inspired by the grand Dunhuang culture, the two parties incorporated Chinese cultural elements including Hexi Corridor and Dunhuang landscape into the watch design. Such co-branded product line has brought a lot of surprises to watch buyers.

brand collaborations in China: Welly Merck and Dunhuang Art Institute
Source: Weibo, Welly Merck and Dunhuang Art Institute co-branded watch

Surfing the Guochao trend

Guochao (literally “national trend”) refers to the increase in consumer favoritism towards Chinese brands, designs, and culture. In recent years, the pursuit of Guochao aesthetic is rising in the fashion industry. Most Guochao consumers have expressed their affection for Welly Merck and Dunhuang Art Institute’s co-branded watch.

On social platforms including Weibo and XiaoHongShu, most netizens believe this cross-brand collaboration is a good example of Guochao. Some said such kind of initiatives are a good way to boost the development of traditional culture, while also promoting innovation.

Li Ning × Bruce Lee

Leveraging consumers’ nostalgia

Nowadays, fashion consumer not only pay attention to the quality of the product, but also pay attention to the emotional value of the product. As a well-established national brand, Li Ning is very good at capturing the mental need of Chinese young consumers. In 2022, Li Ning started to cooperate with Bruce Lee family company.

Bruce Lee (李小龙) was a renowned Chinese kung fu master. Chinese people consider Bruce Lee as a symbol of athleticism, and Li Ning has been able to leverage that admiration and nostalgia, creating new trendy products through brand collaborations in China.

On December 21st 2022, Li Ning and Bruce Lee launched a new series of co-branded shoes, whose design was a reference to kung fu cloth shoes of martial arts practitioners. Furthermore, the words “BE WATER” printed on the carbon plate of the sole of the right foot were a tribute to Bruce Lee’s famous philosophical words, so as to achieve excellent visual effects and evoke the memories of Chinese consumers. One pair of Li Ning x Bruce Lee shoes was designed by Erik Ellington, who is an iconic figure in the skateboarding world.

brand collaborations in China: Li Ning and Bruce Lee co-branded shoes
Source: Weibo, Li Ning and Bruce Lee co-branded shoes

What you should know about brand collaborations in China in the last six months

  • There were several successful brand collaborations in China in the last 6 months, including Louis Vuitton × Yayoi Kusama, Welly Merck × Dunhuang Art Research Institute and Li Ning × Bruce Lee.
  • Most Chinses netizens and consumers show affection toward such co-branding products.
  • Combining fashion and art, KOL marketing, relying on local talents, surfing the Guochao trend, and leveraging nostalgia marketing are good ingredients for a great brand collaboration in China.

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