By 19th Hole Staff | June 21, 2018
Paris Fashion Week is a series of international designer runway presentations held twice yearly in Paris by the French Fashion Federation. For its Paris Fashion Week debut, the Chinese sports icon Li-Ning reflects on the historic achievements of its founder and namesake, the legendary Olympic gymnast Li Ning. His personal story—a focal point of the brand’s heritage—unfolds across apparel and footwear that references the graphics and aesthetic language of Mr. Li’s heyday. Yet the result is progressive and contemporary with oversize proportions, advanced fabrics, street-inspired silhouettes, and clashing colorways.
Presented last season at New York Fashion Week: Men’s, Li-Ning now unleashes its vision of future-heritage in Paris. For Spring/Summer 2019, the collection centers around the moment that Mr. Li won six out of seven gold medals at the Sixth World Cup Gymnastic Competition in 1982, which instantly transformed him into a Chinese national hero and earned him the nickname, “the Prince of Gymnastics.” Two years later, in 1984, he became the most honored athlete at the Summer Olympic Games, winning three gold medals, two silver, and one bronze. This origin tale is the foundation of the collection, which features alternative athleticwear like asymmetric tops and cropped sweats, often emblazoned with slogans like “Leaning on Li-Ning” and “The Legend Begins” in Chinese and English.
The collection melds Mr. Li’s story with a deep sense of Chinese pride and contrasts it with deconstructed, off-kilter apparel in a surprising palette of olive, orchid, nuclear green, and the national colors of cardinal red and bright yellow.
In 40 looks—25 men’s, 15 women’s—Li-Ning establishes the future of sportswear. Single-sleeve sweatshirts are paired with voluminous pleated trousers that are cinched with extra-long, trailing webbed belts. Dolman-sleeve track tops and drop-shoulder jackets are patchworked from multiple colors and fabrics to heighten a sense of contrast and texture. Khaki coats and parkas are pinned with slogan cards and tied with logoed belts. Graphics tell the season’s narrative in colorful gymnastic silhouettes and energetic abstract patterns that suggest movement and progression. Colorful all-over prints cover silken men’s button-down shirts and women’s smock dresses. Finally, nodding to the future’s potential, two crisp white pajama tops, courtesy of Berlin-based fashion label Random Identities, are embroidered in Chinese characters. One says “China Li-Ning” and the other “Random Identities.”
Established in 1990, Li-Ning is driven by the unlimited potential of the human body. “Our brand carries the genes of an athlete,” he says. Its founding mission, as described by Mr. Li, was, very simply, to provide Chinese athletes with national brands to wear as they took the global stage of the Olympics—historically one of the West’s rare portals into Chinese culture.
Spring/Summer 2019 signifies a momentous occasion for the brand and for Mr. Li himself. As he explains: “With this collection, we dove deep into our brand heritage and the world from which Li-Ning emerged in 1990. We sought to create a tribute to this moment—our founding—yet realize it with the technologies, aesthetics, and creativity of 2018. This is a modern point of view on our timeless story.”
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