Masha Ma

HONG KONG Chinese designer Masha Ma already runs a critically acclaimed eponymous fashion brand, but soon she’ll be adding to her responsibilities, assuming the role of creative director of upscale sportswear brand Kolon Sport China.

Kolon Sport is an outdoor label that launched in South Korea in 1973 and entered China in 2006. It’s the Chinese business that Ma will be overseeing.

The new creative direction is one of the first major changes Anta Sports, a 13 billion renminbi ($1.9 billion) company, is implementing after it signed a joint venture with Kolon Sport to grow the brand across greater China in February.

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Ma’s first collection covering men’s and women’s starts with spring and she has agreed to lead the design team of 12 creatively for at least three more seasons after that. The products will be shown in January in Beijing and be available in stores immediately. 

“Everything designed is exclusively for China,” Ma said. “We don’t have the same product as Korea or anywhere else. Kolon is the Moncler of Korea in a sense, very luxurious, very high-quality, but the customer is slightly older. In China, we are aiming a bit younger customer, between 25 to 35.”

The collection is broadly divided into three sections: 10 percent targets professional climbers, 60 percent is aimed at light trekking and lifestyle wear, and the remaining 30 percent is for travel.

Ma said functional lifestyle products could take the form of  “a suit and jacket, even used to go to work daily. It would not be a wind stopper jacket, but it would use highly technical Gore Tex fabric,” for example.

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A retail facelift is also planned. The brand has 220 stores in China across 150 cities. They will be closing the ones that don’t fit with their new brand direction, aiming to have 230 stores by yearend.

“We have e-commerce, but it’s not our focus by the end of this year. We have 500 million renminbi in sales annually. We don’t know how many stores we’re going to close, but the end target is 230,” Ma said.

This is not Ma’s first athletically inclined design venture. Last year, she created the uniform for the Chinese national team for the Rio Summer Olympic games, which was also a partnership with Anta.