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The Chinese Sportswear Brand You Need To Check Out: Li-Ning
China has a $33 billion dollar sportswear market. That number, while staggering, isn’t shocking: The country is the most populous on earth, and it’s said that its middle class will number around 550 million people by the year 2022. Ignore the tariffs and the talk of trade wars for a second and think about that spending base objectively. The potential is immense.
While international sportswear giants are present in China, Li-Ning is a local behemoth. It was founded in 1990 by the decorated Olympic gymnast of the same name (the man won three golds, two silvers, and one bronze at the 1984 Los Angeles games). He wanted a label that Chinese athletes could wear on the global stage.
In the way that the Nikes and Adidases of the world are upping their fashion ante, so too, now, is Li-Ning. Its Spring 2019 runway, held in Paris this afternoon, was staged in a subterranean tube lit with neon signs—recalling something of a night market in Kowloon. The design team went back to 1990, showing everything from singlets printed with that year to flamboyant bodysuits to high-hiked shorts to some strong, less arena-appropriate and more street-ready separates like graphic jackets and sweatshirts. At times, the clothes did look Olympic opening-ceremony kitsch, but that may have been part of the intent.
So, slick in the way that Nike has Virgil Abloh’s Vapormaxes and AF1s and Adidas has Yeezy? Not yet. But worth noting, for education as to a powerhouse international brand with significant promise outside of China. Trade wars be damned.