Staying safe in a fashionable way

Updated: 2016-07-23 00:42

By XU JUNQIAN in Shanghai(China Daily USA)

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After getting into six road accidents in one year, New Yorker Michael Cherman decided to create a reflective sportswear collection that can help cyclists like him stand out in the dark.

A dropout of Parsons College's fashion design course, Cherman said it took him three years of research and development before he figured out how to incorporate reflective materials onto knitted socks without causing cracks.

Four years after the brand ICNY (Eye See New York) was founded, the 25-year-old has now brought his collection to China where cycling is ubiquitous and where thousands of road accidents take place everyday.

Every year, more than 300 cyclists lose their lives in road accidents in Shanghai alone, in addition to the tens of thousands who suffer from injuries.

"I know how many crazy drivers there are in China and this makes my products even more necessary here than back in New York. We really want to cater to the kingdom," said Cherman during his recent trip to Shanghai to promote ICNY's summer collection.

Since last year, Cherman has been working with luxury retailer Lane Crawford as his exclusive partner in the country and he believes that sales of his products in China would be better than in the US over the next year. The bestsellers here include ICNY's T-shirts, hats and socks, all of which are made using reflective materials.

One of the main factors for the brand's popularity in China is the current trend of keeping fit. In June, the State Council, China's Cabinet, approved a National Fitness Program for 2016 to 2020 which calls for people from all walks of life to engage in sports and requires local government to build more public sports facilities. The program estimates that by 2020, the national consumption in sports would hit 1.5 trillion yuan ($220 billion).

Statistics from Amazon China have also showed that the sales of sports underwear for women and equipment used for running in 2015 experienced exponential growth from the year before.

With regard to style, Cherman sees Chinese shoppers being more adventurous with their choice of colors.

"If I am tailoring something for the China market, it would only be because of the size issue — to better fit the Asian physique. In terms of style, the sports trend here is just as chic as everywhere else," said Cherman.

A former employee of Nike in the US, Cherman said that his business has the advantage of being "small and nimble" in comparison to large multinational chains, and this allows him and his team to test new ideas and manufacture products to suit market needs at a faster pace.

At his small studio in Brooklyn, it takes at most one month from idea generation to the shipping of the product to markets like China and Japan. In contrast, it takes about a year for such a process at the major brands. But though Cherman revealed that his business is experiencing double-digit growth, he said that the speed at which he introduces new products is slowing down.

In reference to the current trends in sporty chic fashion, Cherman believes that people have always ranked comfort above everything else.

"For a long time, fashion was very much just about the looks. But now people are realizing that something that looks good can be comfortable and functional as well. ICNY is at the forefront of this trend at the right timing," said Cherman.