Hip hop fashion and streetwear culture, though popular in the West, have never gone mainstream in China. But that may be changing owing to a popular online reality show and rap competition called The Rap of China, which features four celebrity producers tasked with training and guiding a rotating cast of young competing rappers.
The first episode of the show, which is produced by China’s largest online video platform iQiyi, launched on June 24, drawing over 100 million viewers within the first four hours, according to local Chinese media. The average viewership of each episode is currently around 200 million.
One direct result of this wildly popular show is that a series of high-end streetwear brands, including Off-White, Vetements, Supreme and Raf Simons, have become household names among China’s millennials.
In the first episode, Wu made his debut on the show wearing a box logo tee by the New York-based skateboarding shop and streetwear brand Supreme. Supreme is already a very well known streetwear label among Chinese hip hop fans thanks to some Hong Kong-based fashion icons like Edison Chen and Shawn Yue who constantly show their appreciation for it.
However, Wu’s massive popularity towards female consumers has further aroused curiosity in Supreme. Responding to the demand, many fashion bloggers and domestic media have taken a deeper look at the brand, expanding its reach beyond hip hop circles.
The explosion of The Rap of China on the consciousness of Chinese millennials coincides with attempts by international streetwear brands to further tap that market, one that has massive purchasing power and also demonstrates strong interest in understanding foreign streetwear culture as a way to express their individuality.
From that perspective, the show is incredibly significant to brands as it offers free marketing and promotion as well as product placement for their wares. But will that effect alone serve to help streetwear brands grow and flourish in Chinese society as they have in the Western world?