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At NYFW 2019, Li-Ning “Leans Into” High Fashion Image

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New York Fashion Week kicked off last week, boasting a crop of Chinese-born designers and labels. Among them is sportswear brand Li-Ning, who are doubling down on their high fashion image with reprise appearances not once, but twice this season.

Founded by ex-Olympic gymnastics champion Li Ning, the brand became the first Chinese sportswear brand to walk NYFW last year, surprising many.

Made in China 2.0: How Li-Ning Sneakers Went from Beijing Outlets to New York Fashion Week

Until recently, they were more closely associated with “knock-off Nikes” and discount stores in China than the catwalk. But the brand is looking to change that, and emphasized this image with a new, evidently ancient China-inspired show entitled “Xing” (行, “walking”).

Aside from last night’s runway appearance, they cropped up in a collaboration earlier this week with Chinese-born, London-based designer Chen Peng. (They also appeared in a crossover with Chinese-Milanese brand Pronounce not long before.)

chen peng hima laya aw19

Courtesy Chen Peng

Inspired by colors and cultures from the Himalayan region, Chen’s collection titled “HIMA LAYA” is rooted in his “one-sized fashion” mantra, in which each piece can be worn by a spectrum of genders and body types. Chen is a NYFW veteran whose work has been lauded by famous fans including Lady Gaga.

It’s worth noting Li-Ning isn’t the only formerly-mid-shelf commodity to make it big at NYFW. At a pop-up for TMall’s “China Day” last fall, a popular brand of Chinese hot sauce suddenly became the talk of the town.

The Hottest Look at New York Fashion Week SS2019? A Chinese Chili Sauce

Opening Ceremony plastered the logo for Laoganma (“Old Godmother”) hot sauce over chili pepper-red sweatshirts, eclipsing the actual China Day event and becoming an unexpected icon for many nostalgic netizens.

Update This also just happened:

Chinese Beer Goes Big at New York Fashion Week, After Laoganma and Li-Ning

Header image: Li-Ning

Mayura Jain
    Mayura Jain is a Shanghai-based writer, editor, illustrator and designer originally from Los Angeles. Before joining RADII as Life Editor, she worked for City Weekend Shanghai and Sixth Tone as both an editor and graphic designer. In her spare time she frequents art exhibitions, fosters cats, and chows on unhealthy vegetarian food.