Shine CHAT Issue 1. Only designing and manufacturing trendy streetwear a trend that won’t last
Shine CHAT Issue 1
Founder of Shine Marketplace
Hello everybody, my name is Green, and welcome to Shine chat.
For those of you not familiar, let me introduce myself. In 2008, I became passionate about the streetwear and sneaker industry and decided to get involved. I graduated college in 2015 and moved to Los Angeles, the birth city of street culture and streetwear. Along with two friends, I opened a streetwear retailer in the Fairfax District (the holy grail of streetwear) called Solestage. We later launched America’s first Chinese streetwear retailer, Shine Marketplace, also in the Fairfax District.
These two stores are neighbors to renowned streetwear stores like Supreme, Diamond, Bape, and legendary sneaker retailer Flightclub.
Competing with them helped me learn a lot about how the industry works, how to grow one’s business, and how to succeed in this industry. Here, I am going to discuss the current status and standing of Chinese streetwear, as well as the difficulties of globally expanding Chinese streetwear in today’s climate.
Chinese streetwear is very foreign to the majority of streetwear enthusiasts and their community, especially internationally. It’s safe to say that aside from Chinese people, no one knows about Chinese streetwear. Besides CLOT, most streetwear aficionados most likely couldn’t name another Chinese streetwear brand, and probably only know CLOT from their collaborations with Nike. As for CLOT’s own pieces, most people wouldn’t deliberately wear them.
Chinese streetwear is very foreign to the majority of streetwear enthusiasts and their community, especially internationally.
However, someone asked me, “Isn’t Lining breaking the trend and becoming increasingly popular? They were featured in NYFW two years in a row.” That’s true - getting featured and highlighted in NYFW was big for Lining. It gave them an opportunity to showcase their unique designs, concepts, and high quality materials. Lining even started endorsing American celebrities.
However, when customers walk into their stores, they still aren't buying. In the end, the harsh reality is that the brand is still under the radar and unable to grow in this market. In my opinion, the reason behind the slow and stagnant growth of Chinese streetwear is neglecting to develop a brand identity, which lacks a very important component - culture. This stems from the current methods and strategies that most Chinese streetwear brands utilize when establishing a brand (the complete opposite of developing a culture). Brand identity is the crucial backbone of any brand, not just clothing and apparel.
I believe one of the biggest obstacles that Chinese streetwear faces is relying on the platform too much. We embark on entrepreneurial ventures to make money; taking advantage of available technology and using different outlets and platforms can accelerate and ease the money making process. Platforms with large amounts of users means large amounts of traffic, and they provide resources. Even better, some platforms offer courses on marketing and education about running an online retail store.
Under such “support” and availability of resources, a brand that starts from absolutely nothing can quickly gain traffic, even becoming profitable in a short period of time. However, this is also the exact reason why the Chinese streetwear market segment is so oversaturated. Even with high barriers of entry, there is an influx of Chinese streetwear brands every day, vastly increasing the level of competition in an already competitive industry. The unreasonable competition I refer to is a direct reflection of a brand neglecting the importance of developing a strong brand identity and culture.
Think about it: customers have lots of options to choose from in the Chinese streetwear market due to so many brands emerging left and right. As for the brand, it doesn’t matter how unique the designs are or how nice the material is - due to the competitive nature of this market, every brand needs to lower their price and find themself in a price war just for survival. Once a price war begins, the constant lowering of prices means mass production and designing only what’s trendy, basically copying what everyone else is doing. No matter how prestigious or well-known the brand may be, lowering prices and mass producing is almost necessary in such a competitive environment in the market.
The unreasonable competition I refer to is a direct reflection of a brand neglecting the importance of developing a strong brand identity and culture.
To be honest, if we are just considering material and design, Chinese streetwear isn’t any worse than major streetwear brands; so why does a different logo have to drive down the price so much? One of the main reasons is the brand instilling value on its consumers.
In the US, most streetwear brands will only distribute extremely exclusive items (or items that won’t even be released) to these e-commerce platforms. Most of their other pieces will be listed on their own websites. The priority for these brands is to establish a strong brand identity and culture so people wearing them can relate to the brand, or feel represented by something meaningful. These brands care about their culture fitting in and catering to the platform they use for promotion and sale. In the short run, yes, this method probably requires a lot of capital, resources, and time, but to generate longevity, all brands should take this route.
I really do hope that Chinese streetwear designers and brand owners realize this. Making trendy items will make you quick money, but not in the long run. Chinese streetwear brands need to avoid platforms that aren’t in sync with the culture they are trying to curate. Making money is the foundation of any business, but they should ultimately strive for developing a brand with bigger intentions (versus solely making money). Attracting customers with the culture should be ingrained in the brand.
If it takes ten years for a Chinese brand to actually make it and flourish in the streetwear scene, so be it, because I know it’s going to gain the respect and hype it deserves. Good things take time. No famous brands that we all love today became successful overnight. Supreme started in 1994 as a skateboarding brand, and it took them years of nonstop hard work, dedication, blood, sweat, and tears to be at the pinnacle of streetwear, collaborating with LV and other renowned brands.
No famous brands that we all love today became successful overnight.
My message will only be meaningful to those who truly understand what I am trying to convey and to those who have the patience to develop their brands step by step. If you only want to make quick money, everything I’ve just said probably means nothing to you. However, if you are one of the many who wants to make an influential streetwear brand that everyone loves, I hope you continue to follow me on this journey. I will share industry knowledge and personal experience that may not necessarily guarantee you success, but you will surely benefit from.
中文版本： . 只会做爆款的潮牌，长期必败
国潮在国外的知名度是很低的，可以说几乎为零。除了clot之外，大部分在美国的潮流爱好者说不出第二个中国潮牌的名字。而且即使是CLOT，消费者所购买的往往也只是NIke x CLOT的联名，对于纯粹CLOT的服装，外国人是非常少主动上身的。
有人问我 “我看到中国李宁这两年在纽约办的时装周不是风生水起吗？” 关于这个，首先我想说的是，现在的时装周是有钱就能参与的show。而从2019的中国李宁纽约时装周能看出（因为那次活动与Solestage合作了），虽然他们能通过走秀让外国人看到产品的精美设计和优质用料，也能看到咱们有美国的巨星代言宣传，但是外国人走进店里，他们依然不会买单，品牌依然无法真正打开市场，这就是现实。在我看来，这其中的原因就是在品牌发展中，我们国潮缺乏了最重要的一点 —— 品牌文化。而这也能归根究底于目前的国潮发展形式，是和发展品牌文化背道而驰的。
而我希望国潮创业者也能明白这一点。做爆款的确会在短期赚钱，但是于品牌而言，长期必败。国潮需要脱离不适合自己品牌文化的平台，用心做品牌，通过自身去吸引用户。哪怕10年磨一剑，只要能做出来，那就是国潮出海No.1。我虽然不是一个设计师，但是研究了无数品牌。以往众多例子都能证明，成功的品牌都不是一夜成功的。Supreme 在 1994 年便作为滑板诞生，但也是直到近几年才由于于LV的合作，真正登上潮流之巅。