It’s unusual to see an iconic American brand like MLB doing so well in China, a country full of “guoqiao” (patriotic consumption) fever. Although the tide has changed since the reopening of the economy earlier this year, even Nike is struggling in the Chinese market.
According to the fashion industry on the 21st, MLB, a licensed brand of Korean fashion company F&F, sold over 1 trillion won in China last year. This is just three years after the company first entered China in 2019. Even Goldman Sachs, a global financial investment firm, called the growth “unparalleled by any brand in the Chinese fashion market in the past 10 years.” Analysts say that F&F Chairman Kim Chang-soo (61, pictured), who is known as the “Midas touch of the fashion world,” has done a great job.
Reinventing K-Fashion as an international brand
Kim is the second son of Samsung Publishing founder Kim Bong-gyu (88). He graduated from Dongseong High School and Yonsei University’s business school and started working at his father’s company. He served as president of Artbox, a fancy specialty store affiliated with Samsung Publishing.
In 1992, Kim founded his own company, F&F, named after the first letters of the English words for “fashion” and “forward. He could have lived the life of an ordinary office worker at his father’s company, but he couldn’t resist the “entrepreneurial blood” running through his veins.
Kim is credited with “revolutionizing the brand licensing business” in the fashion industry. He rejected the traditional fashion industry practice of importing popular fashion brands from overseas.
Instead, he took brands that had nothing to do with fashion and reinvented them with F&F’s own concept. For example, the MLB brand, which was only applied to hats and baseball items in the United States, was incorporated into various fashion items. In 2012, the company signed a licensing agreement with Discovery Expeditions, a channel specializing in outdoor documentaries, and turned it into a fashion item, which is unique in the world.
Mr. Kim has been pursuing the brand since its inception. “Fashion is about expressing the values of a brand through clothes,” he says. For MLB, he says, “We wanted to capture the stories of people who succeeded by immersing themselves in the sport they loved.”
For Discovery, he says, “We wanted to capture the stories of people who have succeeded because they love their sport. Some say he had the foresight to recognize the athleisure and outdoor craze early on.
Diversifying the portfolio
Last year, its 30th anniversary, F&F posted sales of 1.889 trillion won, a 66.0% year-on-year surge. The securities industry believes that F&F is on track to join the “2 trillion won club” this year메이저사이트.
Its performance in China is the envy of the industry, led by MLB, a brand Kim launched in 1997 after receiving an apparel license from the Major League Baseball (MLB) Secretariat. There are currently more than 880 MLB stores in China. F&F expects the number of MLB China stores to exceed 1100 this year.
Goldman Sachs predicts that MLB will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 30% in China over the next five years. MLB is expected to generate sales of 1.5 trillion won this year.
However, with licensed brands MLB and Discovery accounting for the bulk of its sales, there is always a threat. This is because the two brands may decide to go into business for themselves after seeing their success in Korea.
F&F has recently diversified its business by acquiring well-known international brands. In 2018, it acquired the global headquarters of Italian padding brand Dubetica, and last year, the global headquarters of American premium tennis brand Sergio Takini.