SHANGHAI — Jackson Wang is known for many things. He’s an Asian pop phenomenon, a jokester TV host, and a polyglot who can switch between four languages.
When it comes to fashion, his most high-profile project is as ambassador for Fendi. But when he sits down to talk with WWD, it’s to discuss Team Wang, the fashion lifestyle brand that he founded with his childhood friend and former schoolmate, Henry Cheung.
The label was born this time a year ago in the midst of the pandemic, which in part explains why — while not entirely low-profile — the brand is more under the radar than his other pursuits. Wang’s success as a musician towers over anything he touches.
The singer last week released a new song “California,” one of the many projects that has kept him on the road. When he steps into the Team Wang office in Xintiandi, it’s the first time he’s seen the space after the business moved to accommodate his expanding team.
Now a year old, Team Wang has so far kept a limited distribution. It can be bought through WeChat and it has partnered with platforms including Farfetch and StockX, but has yet to be sold through any major Chinese e-commerce platform.
One of the advantages to being a celebrity-backed brand is that it can generate traffic without forking over the hefty fees to get placement on a marketplace algorithm. Instead, Team Wang has relied on buzz from their own guerrilla pop-up stores and collaborations like its latest one with Palm Angels.
Watch the interview here:
The brand worked with Palm Angels founder Francesco Ragazzi to release an eight-piece collection that coincided with Team Wang’s first anniversary. The designs feature Palm Angels’ signature palm-tree motif while incorporating Chinese classical art elements in its ink-like brush strokes and full moon.
“We were friends at first and I was wearing one of his products one day and then we DM-ed each other,” said Wang, who acts as designer and creative director of Team Wang. Chats over Instagram for a few months eventually led to the collaboration done entirely digitally while COVID-19 made travel difficult.
Like the main Team Wang line, the capsule products are black and white only. While the exclusive use of monochrome can seem sobering at first, it represents the ultimate expression of creative freedom to Wang.
“[The black is about having] no boundaries and you can’t see the limit,” he said. “It’s like closing my eyes, it’s dark. I can go anywhere. I can fly anywhere. I don’t know where my limit is. It just feels like that.”
While that may be the case creatively, Wang has Cheung as the chief executive officer of the brand to help set a direction, and some commercial boundaries.
“Jackson, he doesn’t really pay attention to the money side, he doesn’t care. He just wants to output high-quality, high-performance stuff,” said Cheung.
Wang had an initial idea to create a wine fridge as a “sparkles” item. (The collection is broadly divided into two categories: “cookies” being the core fashion products, and “sparkles” being the novelty items.)
Cheung reined him in, given the difficulties of producing an electronic product with varying voltage internationally, and the two landed on a trolley cart instead, similar to the ones used by flight attendants. While striking a balance can be difficult at times, the two have more than a decade of friendship to lean back on.
When asked where his long-term vision for the brand lies, Wang answered: “How many stores or how many people are wearing it — it’s not our final goal. I think what we’re trying to achieve is the image when people talk about Team Wang…whether it is fashion products or music or art. It’s something that’s cool, that they’re doing crazy stuff…that’s fresh.”
Cheung added: “I think the main purpose for creating Team Wang is really helping others to raise their self awareness that’s the key message we want to send.”
Right now, the people buying Team Wang tend to be Wang’s music fans, but the two are hoping that the label will outgrow his celebrity over time.
“We try really hard to differentiate Jackson and Team Wang,” Cheung said. “Team Wang itself is a lifestyle brand.”
“I also have the thought that maybe after 30 or 40 years, I wish [that] people don’t know about me,” said Wang. “They know Team Wang more than they know me. ‘I know Team Wang but Jackson, who is Jackson?’ That would be amazing.”