LONDON — Chinese sportswear giant Li-Ning is going premium to maintain its growth momentum.
The brand on Monday officially revealed the debut of its high-end line 1990 collection, which bears a motif comprised of three of its original logos used when the brand was founded by gymnast Li Ning in 1990.
Similar to Y-3’s positioning for Adidas, 1990 puts a focus on style with function and heritage. The brand said its creative direction is based on Li’s unparalleled spirit in sport. Known as the “prince of gymnastics,” with several Olympic gold medals under his belt, he is considered one of the most celebrated athletes in China.
The line combines Chinese artistic and cultural details with sharply tailored elements, with a visual identity rooted in the ancient Chinese philosophical concept of heaven being round and Earth being square.
Li-Ning opened a 1990 flagship in the high-end shopping mall Parkview Green Beijing last week, and another one in Raffles City Chongqing, selling the brand’s first 1990 collection, including apparel, accessories and footwear. The brand also hosted a press event in Shanghai during the week to introduce the new line to the Chinese market.
Growth at the brand slowed from 65 percent in the first half of 2021 to around 20 percent to 30 percent in the third quarter of 2021.
Premiumization and global expansion are two ways to speed up growth again. A week before unveiling 1990 in China, the brand also revealed that it planned to sell around $1.35 billion worth of new shares to its major shareholder Viva China, which is controlled by Li, to raise capital for international expansion and for investment in newly launched product categories.
The multibrand strategy is also a key area for growth. Last week it was revealed that Viva China is to acquire the loss-making Italian shoemaker Amedeo Testoni for no more than 81.57 million Hong Kong dollars, or $10.48 million at current exchange.
Prior to that, Viva China acquired the struggling high street brand Bossini and British shoemaker Clarks via an investment fund with LionRock Capital.