Shoemaker Nike owes its success as much to the marketing that backs its footwear as the science behind it. But as one of the biggest athletic apparel companies on the planet, the Nike swoosh is hardly a rare sight these days, so if the Oregon-based company really wants to catch people’s eyes, it has to get a little more flamboyant with its designs.
That’s as true in emerging markets as it is in established ones, which is why Nike’s new pair of kicks made especially for China might be the wildest the company has ever made, and come packed with all sorts of imagery meant to make sure fortune smiles on theirs wearers while everyone is looking at their feet.
Called the Nike Air Foamposite One China Tianjins, the ostentatious high tops are named for Tianjin City, home of the Tianjin Lions professional basketball team. The Lions are one of seven teams in the China Basketball League, and have reached all 11 championship contests the organization has held, winning five of them.
You won’t see any overt basketball references on the Nike Tianjins, though. What you will find, though, are a collection of auspicious images and phrases. Near the laces there’s a pattern evocative of fish scales, chosen due to the words “fish” and “abundance” being homonyms in Chinese.
The theme continues with what looks to be at least one swimming crimson fish per side of the shoe. The graphics also feature such images of good fortune such as a field of blossoming lotus flowers and a plump child.
The Tianjins are even working to bring you luck in places where no one can see it. On each insole, printed in gold letters, is the phrase “Prosperity for years to come.”
Unique as the Tianjins may be, though, some online comments in Japan show that not everyone is impressed by the aesthetics of Nike’s decision to cram so much cultural significance into the limited canvas the shoes provide.
“I don’t even think [crazily costumed idol singer] Kyaru Pamyu Pamyu would be caught in these.”
“I can imagine see some old lady strutting around wearing them in [Tokyo’s senior mecca] Tsugamo.”
“Instead of making these ugly things, can Nike hurry it up with the self-tying shoes already?”
The opinions of these Japanese detractors are kind of a moot point, though. The Tianjins will be sold exclusively in China, where they go on sale February 7, just in time for Chinese New Year.