Li Ning is one of the largest brands in China. It traces its history back 30 years when the decorated Chinese gymnast of the same name created a sports-inspired brand that has become a household name and a public company that is traded on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.
But despite its lofty position in its home country, Li Ning, the label, has limited distribution in the U.S. and Europe. So its first show on the women’s calendar during New York Fashion Week was intended to change that. Ditto for its association with marketing consultant and former Adidas executive Liad Krispin, who is working with Li Ning to break into the market.
“We’re ready to slowly and strategically open up to high-end specialty and sneaker stores,” he said. “We’re taking concepts from sport and turning them into great lifestyle pieces, but always with a nod to China.”
With a front row full of Chinese celebrities and a backdrop of images of mountainous terrain, the message was clear from the get-go: the fall line was going to embrace its roots and Asian heritage.
The collection offered up a solid Eighties-inspired sportswear/streetwear vibe that successfully blended true athletic references with retro graphics that worked best in tracksuits with colorful paneling. A similar sensibility was applied to the tailored pieces, which were updated with back drawstrings on navy pinstriped jackets that served to create great visually appealing waist effects.
But the highlight came in oversized utility anoraks and parkas that projected a street hiker look and gave the athletic message a cool globe-trotting direction.