On Monday, Chinese shopping behemoth Tmall threw the second of their China Day celebrations at New York Fashion Week. The first helped catapult previously derided sports brand Li-Ning to hipster must-have status, but the second has spotlighted an even more unlikely subject: a Guizhou chili sauce.
Lao Gan Ma 老干妈, usually translated as “Old Godmother”, has been a popular brand across China for decades now, having been founded in the mid-’90s. Fans/addicts dollop it on pretty much anything to lend dishes a bit of a fiery kick. And even those who aren’t fans of the sauce in China probably know the rags-to-riches story behind the brand. It was founded by Tao Huabi, the woman whose image still adorns its jars to this day, back when she was a poor noodle cook in Guiyang. Two decades later and the company she started is worth hundreds of millions of Yuan.
This “China Dream” narrative captured the attention of the country last year when Tao was reported to have quietly retired from the company, now a millionaire.
Now, Lao Gan Ma is once again trending on microblog platform Weibo thanks to the brand’s image popping up on a hoodie produced by Opening Ceremony and marketed at NYFW:
Commenters on the platform have been full of slightly bemused praise:
The emojis tell you most of what you need to know there. But most of the comments are along the lines of the one coming from the Peppa Pig avatar: “Who’d have thought that one day Lao Gan Ma could become so fashionable?” Another commenter (second row in the screenshot) also points out that the wording on the arm reads “National Goddess”.
Want one of the hoodies? They are, of course, on sale on Tmall:
Get ’em while they’re, ahem, hot.
For a slightly more traditional catwalk campaign from the China Day showcase, here’s a video from designer Angel Chen’s show:
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