Photo of Slide by Label Networks–Presentation on China 2009

In Label Networks’ 3rd annual China Youth Culture Study
covering 15-30-year-olds across key cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, despite the global economic downturn, there are new markets with great possibilities for fashion brands, particularly denim. While the premium denim market has suffered greatly (see our North American Youth Culture Study Fall Report 2009) in the last 6 months, there are other areas of the denim industry that are doing well, including mid-level priced denim, especially for American brands among youth markets in Asia.

In the past 4 years, Japan, China, South Korea, and Taiwan trends have been leaning towards obtaining authentic Americana brands ranging from footwear such as the popularity of Red Wing and Timberland in Japan, as well as “workwear” such as Carhartt, Dickies, and even John Deere brands in Asia and parts of Western and Northern Europe. Even in the United States, the move towards old-school traditional brands is growing strong such as the new demand among today’s generation for Woolrich, Pendleton, Bass, Sperry Topsiders, and Lee.

One reason for this is that an entirely new generation of consumers are looking for what’s considered to be classic, rich in history, durable, and yet fashionable when worn with other pieces. And the worse the economy gets, the stronger this sort of movement takes shape -similar to the rise of vintage and thrift finds. In this story, we take a fresh look at data from our China Youth Culture Study to be released in full in January 2009 as it pertains to denim.

When asked what is your favorite denim brand among 15-30-year-olds, also known as the “After %uFFFD80%uFFFDs” and “After %uFFFD90%uFFFDs” generation, based on a representative sampling of thousands of young people from the middle to upper-income socioeconomic bracket in 3 main cities in China, Lee has moved into the top place overall, beating out Levi Strauss by a narrow margin. As many people explained, while Levi Strauss does have a strong history of being the most authentic American denim brand, Lee has the connotation of being fashionable workwear that in some cases, have a better fit, especially according to females who actually rank Lee higher than males. However both brands represent symbols not only of America, but as this new generation put it
(both in Europe and China), it%uFFFDs a brand that is “simply authentic and meant for me.”

If you were to look at top brands by gender and age groups, it’s clear that the brand to watch among younger demographics is Giordano which ranks highest, whereas Meters/bonwe peaks among 18-20-year-olds along with Levi Strauss, and Lee is now the new leader (beating out Levi Strauss) among 21-25-year-olds.

In China, while spending is much lower on denim on average than in America, 21-25-year-olds do spend far more on denim and tend to buy more jeans per year so the leading brand within this age group has the greatest advantage, which currently is Lee, followed by Levi Strauss.

What’s also changed in the last 2 years is the increase in the number of denim jeans on average that young people are buying, now peaking at an average of 6 per year, up from 3-4 in 2005. One reason for this can be attributed to the rise in a Chinese version of rap/Hip-Hop and DJ culture. More closely associated with East Coast new-school than a historical ’80’s rap and excessive bling version, artists such as Jay Chow, DJ Wordy (a DNC Champion in ’05 and ’06), Nasty Ray, DJ Fat Jay, and others spinning at clubs like Yu Gong Shi in Beijing, have also contributed to the inspiration in styles among males, as well as females wearing more denim pants, denim skirts and denim shorts with tights.
For the After %uFFFD80s and %uFFFD90s gen, being street fashionable is key to one%uFFFDs identity and a symbol of the country%uFFFDs new middle class affluence–like drinking coffee at Starbucks or visiting internet cafes and working on one%uFFFDs avatar. Denim is of course a key aspect to this lifestyle.

Overall, even with lower price points paid on average for a pair of denim jeans (to be revealed in the China Study), the sheer volume of young people within these age groups and the changes and influences coming from the music scene, mean that there’s a growing denim marketplace among today’s China youth culture. For American brands, especially those with online retail components, this represents one of the strongest and fastest growing new markets.

Label Networks’ 3rd China Youth Culture Study 2009 is free for Premium Subscribers of 2009. For more information, email; (323) 630-4000.