In China The Luxury Fashion Market Falls While Sportswear Soars


Chinese actress Fan Bingbing and her boyfriend actor Li Chen attend the opening ceremony of an Adidas store [Photo: Getty]

Chanel’s Karl Lagerfeld once said: “Sweatpants are a sign of defeat.” How ironic that years later Lagerfeld would go on to design a whole runway show around them, sending supermodel Cara Delevingne down the catwalk in pink workout-wear.

Over the past two years, the athleisure trend has spun out of control. The number of companies and designers who have gotten into the running-ballet-yoga game, with clothes that are described as “après sport” or “gym-to-the-office”, has taken athleisure from a trend to a full-blown movement (pun intended).


Chanel Show, Autumn Winter 2014, Paris Fashion Week, France [Photo: REX/Shutterstock]

I myself believe that once you start sporting (!) those running tights anywhere other than the gym, you’ll be so comfy you’ll never work out ever again. Why would you? Thanks to their soft fabrics and adjustable-to-a-very-big-lunch-plus-dinner fit, you will find yourself living on a realm of no-buttons-needed bliss!

Crossing over to The East we can see how China’s uber-wealthy have taken the sportswear-anywhere trend to the next level.

The children of China’s elite, also called fuerdai (富二代) aka “second-generation money”, are notorious for their ostentatious and beyond lavish antics.

From crashing Lamborghini Aventadors to burning bundles of cash, the young and restless wealthy of China often go on designer shopping sprees. But exclusive handbags and luxury clothes are a thing of the past, athleisure wear is the newest status symbol. Shopping is all about statement buys for the affluent young of China.


Model Ming Xi poses wearing Thom Browne pants, Nike Jordan sneakers and Fendi bag after Chanel show [Photo: Getty]

Over the past six months, there has been a turn towards Western sports brands. President Xi Jingping’s campaign to reign in the exuberant expenditure of luxury goods at the hands public officials (aka mom and dad) has hurt sales of luxury brands ranging from Burberry to BMW.

As the profits of prestigious european heritage brands dwindle, international sportswear brands such as Adidas and Nike remain robust.

Big foreign sportswear brands are simple the safer bet for many a label consumer pondering the political implications of their wardrobe and accessory kicks.

One reason why sports brands are succeeding may be the fact that an increasing number of ‘Middle Kingdommers’ are interested in getting healthier. More and more people are heading out for a refreshing run early in the morning or heading to the gym after work.


A young woman poses at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Beijing, China [Photo: Getty]

Another more political reason is that those big foreign sportswear brands are simple the safer bet for many a label consumer pondering the political implications of their wardrobe and accessory kicks.

Those Chinese big spenders worried about flaunting their cash now opt to buy products that clearly come with a big price tag, but are not excessively glitzy.

President Xi, meanwhile, encourages this trend, hoping to garner more interest in sports before the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

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