Real Talk | Particle Fever Explodes onto China Sportswear Scene
by Dragon Group Asia | September 10, 2017
Interview / Johanna Hoopes, Liling Mo
Photos & Video Courtesy of Particle Fever
Dragon Media visited Particle Fever and sat down with Zoe Liu and her team to find out more about how the young brand has become a premium sportswear sensation in China. Liu, a 27 year old Harvard Law School graduate, was recently named as one of the “300 Top Innovators, Entrepreneurs and Leaders Under Age 30” by Forbes China. Zoe explained the inspiration behind the brand to Dragon.
(ZL = Zoe Liu)
The Story: We Aim to Be Global
ZL: We wanted to start a global sportswear brand in China. In 2014 we began to research supply chain, working with fitness applications in China to know more about the market, and based on our experience in data analytics and IT, we were able to form a strong team.
Launching a brand is very hard because you always want to start from a breakthrough point in the market. There are already huge international players like Nike, Under Armour, Lululemon and Adidas.
We launched our first product, the Instinct Legging. You don’t need to wear any underwear with them. People LOVED the concept and we became very well known from this product.
Particle Fever Office
The Challenge: To Be or Not Too Be
ZL: It’s all about balancing the business and the art. You don’t want to be too pioneering for the ready-to-wear market but if you aren’t pioneering enough you won’t make any impact. You only have limited resources and money but you want to achieve and reach your hardcore users. The biggest brands always choose the safest route to get customers’ attention and market buzz by using celebrities, but at that time we didn’t have any money to engage celebrities. We initially just launched our WeChat platform with a video. The video went viral with over 70,000 views on our WeChat quickly and our product sold out overnight. We never imagined it would be so well acclaimed. From that moment we learned more and more about this market.
The Woolmark Company x Particle Fever x Lane Crawford
The Motivation: We thrive on Art and Sports
ZL: We combined all our interest in film, art, design and space in one project. We’re always talking about all different genres of music and art, and we think all these creative aspects can be combined in sportswear. More importantly, we are all sports & fitness enthusiasts. I personally love dancing a lot!
Lookbook4 Product Line
The Success: Productivity & Creativity
ZL: We need to do a lot of things to achieve our targets. We spent five months coming up with the brand name and designing the logo for Particle Fever, based on an independent documentary filmed in New York. We infused that influence into our brand.
We need to hold ourselves to very modern and international standards. Right now customers are very smart and they can be critical about what they want – they have very high standards – especially fitness consumers. We’re often compared to premium luxury boutique brands, which is actually a good thing. We hold lots of IP on our materials. Our factories are supporting us to become the biggest Chinese sportswear brand globally and we collaborate with them on fabric research and development. Our fabrics and technology can contribute to our success but we really distinguish ourselves with our style.
The Vision: Smart Branding and Beyond
We keep branding separate from marketing and sales. Branding is a talent. It cannot be taught. Our content production team spends 30% of their time taking in new creative insights and ideas. We ask them to travel abroad, to visit galleries and vintage boutiques and learn more about other industries to get inspired. That helps us to reach our long term creative vision. We are not pretending to be cool. We ARE cool. It’s authentic.
Next Big Thing: The Flagship Stores
There will be 600 sq. meter stores in both Beijing and Shanghai which is very large for a new brand like us. We designed the entire space ourselves collaborating with artists. We will change our store displays very often and will have community activities in our stores. We are supporting emerging sports teams and athletes such as modern dance groups and will offer them a space to play.