Eleven After Eleven is considered one of China’s leading manufacturers of street, sports and skate brands. The portfolio of the Hong Kong–based company includes renowned names such as Alpha Industries, Champion, Dickies, HUF, Palace Skateboard and Wasted Paris. Its most recent partnership along with Authentic Brands Group is a multiyear license agreement to design, manufacture and distribute Airwalk apparel, outerwear, footwear and headwear throughout greater China. We talked to Man Leung, owner of Eleven After Eleven, about the Chinese streetwear market.
How has the streetwear market in China developed in the last years? What kind of development do you expect in the next years?
The streetwear market has been performing very well in China for the past few years. The skate culture from the US plays an important role in this movement and made streetwear and skatewear more mainstream in China. Social media educates the youth shopper in China so they are very in tune to emerging trends and cultures–we truly believe the market will continue to strengthen as a result.
"Social media educates the youth shopper in China so they are very in tune to emerging trends and cultures."
What international streetwear brands are popular among Chinese kids and what do these brands have to offer in terms of design, price and distribution?
Brands like Supreme or Stüssy are doing very well in China for the time being. However, I do see Chinese teenagers are exploring newer brands and styles so the region has a long way to go–we’re a little behind yet. Brands that are finding success however, have equity in the States and that is very powerful to the Chinese consumer. Similar to the early origins of streetwear in the US, kids find brands and tap into the community they create. There is a sense of discovery and ownership and that resonates the most. A brand like Airwalk for example, has an authentic history in skate culture so shoppers feel connected to that spirit.
What does a non-Chinese streetwear brand need to consider when starting business in China?
Authenticity will always remain key to the consumer. Non-Chinese brands really needed to find the right partners to work with to ensure product and marketing stories are applicable to the Chinese consumer–that’s what we are specializing in for Airwalk. The brand has the authenticity and Eleven After Eleven as a partner will bring that to life for the Chinese consumer. From a business perspective, China is a whole different market with today’s heavy import tax so the right partner can help navigate that.
Which cities or areas in China have the biggest potential in selling streetwear? Is it still the 1st and 2nd tier cities, or is there a shift happening?
Shanghai continues to be hub for streetwear/skate fashion. However, we’re really noticing 2nd tier cities catching up such as Chengdu, which is right behind Shanghai when it comes to streetwear popularity. We expect the growth to be a similar to how it worked in the US, starting with niche groups and growing to a mass audience.
What is your typical Chinese streetwear consumer all about?
Our target for streetwear consumer is around 16-35 years of age. Surprisingly, female consumers contribute a large portion of the market.
Brands like Li Ning are doing very well in China. Although they are more sportswear, the brand is definitely moving strongly into streetwear and skate marketing.
When it comes to distribution channels is multibrand as successful as monobrand? Is it rather e-commerce or still physical spaces?
Multibrand has been struggling for the past few years. I do believe monobrand stores can provide a much better consumer experience and selection for the consumer in China and this is exactly what they are looking for. You can’t just do e-comm without brick and mortar, and you can’t make business by just having a physical retail space. In China, you really need both to capture the whole market.