Why Reebok Made Its Runway Debut at Shanghai Fashion Week

A new brand made its debut earlier today at Shanghai Fashion Week, but it wasn’t a young ingenue. It was the global sportswear company Reebok.

The Boston-based brand, which is a division of Adidas AG, kicked off the fashion shows with a special presentation at Taipinghu Xintiandi featuring its upcoming fall ’19 collection, plus a see-now-buy-now segment with styles from its current spring lineup. The event included special appearances by brand ambassador and rapper Future, as well as Chinese superstar William Chan.

Future Reebok Shanghai Fashion Week
Future at the Reebok show at Shanghai Fashion Week.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Reebok

Reebok president Matt O’Toole told FN that the SFW event is part of the brand’s larger focus on the Asian market. “For some time, we’ve been investing in China and recognizing, as most brands have, that there is tremendous potential there,” he said.

Indeed, in 2018, Reebok saw its largest revenue gains in Asia-Pacific, with a 3 percent increase in net sales on a currency-neutral basis, to total 336 million euros (or roughly $377.9 million at current exchange). The market is its third largest, behind Europe and North America.

To help solidify its place among the Chinese consumer, Reebok opened a Creation Center in Shanghai last year, which O’Toole said is crafting product and marketing tailored specifically to the market. “They are gathering real insights on trends and what’s happening with the consumer,” he said. “And they’re developing both apparel and footwear that initially would be available in the Chinese market and other Asian market, but in some cases may be more broadly distributed as well.”

He noted that today’s presentation was an opportunity to present the creation team’s work so far and get the message across that the words “Reebok” and “fashion” can go hand in hand. “Fashion is a main driver in the sportswear business,” said O’Toole. “Our brand has followed that by working recently with people like Victoria Beckham and Pyer Moss to bring sport and fashion together. Now we’re showing the consumer [in China] that that’s what we do.”

Models sport Reebok fall 2019 looks on the runway at Shanghai Fashion Week.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Reebok

Speaking hours after the SFW show, O’Toole said the early results from the event exceeded expectations in terms of the impact on its China e-commerce business. “The fact that we’re making some of the product available immediately, it’s helping,” he said, “where people can not only appreciate the designs but go ahead and purchase them.”

Among the new looks on display in Shanghai was the Advanced Concepts’ Sole Fury sneaker developed by Helen Kirkum. The British designer is best known for what some call a “Frankenstein-esque” approach, where she repurposes elements from other products on her shoes. To create this special release for SFW, she broke down Reebok’s 3D Opus 98, Instapump Fury, Run.R 96 and Ventilator silhouettes to make three unique visions of Sole Fury.

Reebok Advanced Projects Sole Fury
Reebok Advanced Projects’ Sole Fury by Helen Kirkum.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Reebok
Reebok Advanced Projects Sole Fury
Reebok Advanced Projects’ Sole Fury by Helen Kirkum.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Reebok

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