A decade ago, it might have seemed crazy to imagine a time in which the sportswear market wasn't a one-company game. Of course, competitors to Nike have always existed and retained their global presence, but none were as trailblazing as the Swoosh. Fast-forward to 2021, and things have changed drastically.
Western players aren't the only ones making enormous financial gains, though. Chinese sportswear brand Li-Ning has seen revenue rise 65 percent year on year, with net profits up 187 percent in the first half of 2021.
Part of what makes this growth so impressive is Li-Ning's increased global awareness. Until recent years, the brand's presence was somewhat niche outside of China but its increased proximity to international stars like Dwayne Wade through sponsorship deals and a stronger focus on its premium fashion line has levied Li-Ning against the industry's biggest names.
The result? Li-Ning cemented itself as both a contender in the traditional sportswear market and a rising star in high-end streetwear. Unique takes on shape and construction within the brand's footwear lineup played a key role in its rising status, landing collaborations with the likes of Soulland, Erik Ellington and Neil Barrett.
All that being said, despite Li-Ning's swelling presence, we're still seriously lacking Li-Ning selections at Western retailers. Though Li-Ning has been picked up by the likes of Browns, SSENSE, and Selfridges, and KITH, it's not yet a common occurrence at most sneaker or fashion boutiques.
The clothing line, in particular, is still tough to track down outside of specialty stores — Li-Ning itself only offers its wares on its AliExpress page rather than a dedicated international web store.
Given Li-Ning's ever-upwards trajectory, its product may actually one day be within reach.