Chen Peng x Li Ning

LONDON — Li Ning, China’s leading sports apparel-maker, is collaborating on a collection with up-and-coming designer Chen Peng that will debut at New York Fashion Week, part of a larger strategy aimed at giving the mass brand a more elevated, edgy appeal.

This is the second fashion collaboration this year for the athleticwear giant that was founded by the Olympic medalist of the same name. It was less than a month ago that Li Ning showcased its first fashion collaboration with Chinese men’s brand Pronounce during London Fashion Week Men’s.

For Li Ning, fashion associations mean business. Ever since the brand first presented its fashion collection in New York last January, it has met with a positive market response. Sales were up 17 percent in the first half of 2018.

The company’s market capitalization is at seven-year high and 67 percent larger than a year ago. The share price was 10.26 Hong Kong dollars, or $1.31, before the Hong Kong Stock Exchange closed for Chinese New Year on Feb. 4.

Feng Ye, general manager of Li Ning’s e-commerce unit, said the latest fashion collaboration falls under the newly launched division Counterflow, which focuses on streetwear and Chinese pop culture. “It has a more premium price point as we begin to pay more attention to the younger Chinese consumer,” he said.

Feng said Li Ning, which will present its main fashion line on Feb. 12 at New York Fashion Week, wants the world to know it is serious about design.

“By supporting young talents, the market gets to see more original design and genuine products coming out of China. Only by doing this, you begin to change people’s perception about Made in China,” said Feng, confirming there are talks to bring more fashion collaborations to life in the second half of 2019.

Chen, a London College of Fashion men’s wear graduate, has designed a capsule collection consisting of six new sneaker models, priced from $100 to $130, and a number of down jackets, priced below $430. The designer is known for his voluminous down jackets that resemble a beetle’s shell.

Chen has also put his personal spin on some of Li Ning’s signature sportswear essentials, such as the tracksuit and hoodie. He made them in colors from his signature collection, including periwinkle, gray and Millennial pink.

Chen Peng x Li Ning

Chen Peng x Li Ning  Courtesy

The shoes from the collection will be immediately available after the show at Li Ning’s Tmall store and its official web site. The rest of the pieces are set to arrive in the fall.

The two partners first met during the inaugural Tmall China Day last year, part of the Suntchi and CFDA five-year partnership. Both were showing at New York Fashion Week for the first time.

“I was amazed by Li Ning’s brand-new image,” the designer said. “They are a household brand in China, and Li Ning himself is a national hero, but I never imagined that Li Ning could be this fashionable. During the past year of knowing each other, the Li Ning team also admired our brand image. So we decided to start the collaboration from this season.”

Chen decided to return to New York to show because “North America is actually our biggest market. Ssense, Dover Street Market and Opening Ceremony are some of our most important stockists. Considering the schedule, timing, and every single element, we decided to show our fall 2019 collection here, and I simply adore the way people dress here,” said Chen, whose brand has more than 70 stockists across 13 countries.

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