According to a recent report from ReportLinker, the China Lingerie market was valued at US$26.36 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach US$42.51 billion by 2026. Digital native lingerie brands like NEIWAI have been disrupting this fragmented market sector.
In recent years this Chinese homegrown lingerie brand founded in 2012 saw a stellar growth. In addition to its e-commerce channels, NEIWAI opened more than 150 brick and mortar shops across the country. The brand has also set up a local operation team in the United States and launched an international website. In terms of products, NEIWAI has expanded into loungewear and athleisure.
Retail in Asia had the pleasure to interview Xiaolu Liu, Founder of NEIWAI. Together we discussed the brand’s success, commitments and future plans.
RiA: NEIWAI was born in 2012 as a digital native brand in China and is now a global phenomenon. How do you explain the success of NEIWAI?
Xiaolu: NEIWAI’s achievements are inseparable from our products, branding and channels. Together, these have created a strong competitive position for NEIWAI.
On a product level, NEIWAI addresses the needs of diverse groups of people as we continuously develop new products for different body shapes and enrich the variety in our product offering.
From a branding perspective, NEIWAI’s core concept remains unchanged from day one – we have always encouraged modern women to explore and express themselves freely. At the same time, we continuously try to expand the core values of the brand to keep NEIWAI always relevant to women of our times.
As for our channels, we started to expand into brick-and-mortar in 2017 and expanded to overseas markets in 2020 as part of our globalisation process.
RiA: How has your heritage shaped your brand vision and mission?
Xiaolu: In my partner’s and my previous work in management consulting, we accumulated a rich body of experience in marketing strategy of consumer products and female consumer goods and discovered a strong passion in creating a brand. Through domestic and foreign industry market research and my personal experience, we decided to focus on the lingerie category, one that is closest to the female body, and set out to build a brand that truly meets the needs of women and echoes with women’s values from their own perspective.
In 2012, we founded NEIWAI. All we do is try to represent and support the diverse lives of modern women, address and discuss the social issues they are facing – which all stem from the empathy for women and the insights into women’s values that the brand was founded on, all the while providing products that match and support their lifestyles.
RiA: The core concept of NEIWAI is comfort. How does it translate in your product development?
Xiaolu: Everything we do – brand campaigns, product design and more – comes from a place of understanding women. The idea is to be a companion to our customer, to go along with her in her everyday adventures and support her in every precious moment. This concept inspires and guides our product design ideology. We use premium fabrics and unique designs to craft clothing that allows our wearers the freedom to express themselves and to live their lives in comfort. We continue to push ourselves internally on creating a more inclusive product scope to fit more body types, more scenarios, and more lifestyles.
RiA: You recently launched a capsule collection with Wolford. How is it performing globally? In which market is it more popular?
Xiaolu: The collaboration between NEIWAI and Wolford is a joint sustainability collection of innovative design concepts – designed in China and made in Austria. Every design aligns with the concept of cyclic utilisation. Based on modern women’s aesthetic expression, NEIWAI led the design of this collection, while Wolford contributed their world-leading fabric research and development, as well as their seamless weaving technique, under its Cradle to Cradle® gold certification standard.
The co-branded collection was sold online and offline in both NEIWAI and Wolford’s channels in China and on NEIWAI’s official United States website, and received very positive feedback from customers of both brands. However, what we value more is the discussion of experiences and innovative practices in the sustainable development of the collection. The two brands hope that through eco-friendly co-creation, we have developed a unified pursuit of protecting the Earth and building corporate social responsibility. We jointly promoted further exploration and integration of Eastern and Western cultures with these sustainable design concepts and environmental protection practices.
RiA: NEIWAI advocates body positivity. Your campaign NO BODY IS NOBODY launched in February 2020 went viral. Can you tell us more about your commitment to empower women and encourage body diversity?
Xiaolu: From 2020, our “NO BODY IS NOBODY” campaign has been focused on approaching, listening and recording the journey of women facing their true bodies and lives, and developing more in-depth contents about the problems that cause women’s physical anxiety. We hoped to encourage more women to participate in the discussion through podcasts, documentaries, social media interactions and other forms.
One of our key products is the Barely Zero® one size fits all bra (featured in NO BODY IS NOBODY). It uses a highly stretchy fabric to accommodate and adapt to different sizes, support different bodies, and remove the frustration of selecting bra sizes online for consumers. It was developed to accurately target, answer, and alleviate the changing needs of contemporary women’s underwear and their pain points, for women to truly feel the “freedom of body and mind”.
RiA: You are also committed to a more sustainable fashion. How do you aim to reduce your environmental impact?
Xiaolu: NEIWAI deeply values environmental protection and sustainable design concepts, which are reflected in the development and design of each of our seasonal releases. On the one hand, the brand is based on modern, elegant and classic styles, and expects that each product will remain stylistically relevant for the duration of its life; on the other hand, by using eco-friendly, high-quality natural fabrics and other innovative environmentally friendly materials, we have reduced our negative impact on the environment.
For example, our swimsuits are made from 100 percent-recycled fabrics VITA, which is made from yarns extracted from recycled materials such as fishing nets; our down jackets use high-tech and environmentally friendly thermal insulation material called PrimaLoft® to replace traditional animal down filling; we also launched the “Simple Denim” series, which retain the look, feel and classic design elements of jeans but using non-denim fabrics to break away from traditional denim (which is prone to pollution); and we released PANTIE PRO™ period underwear last year, a product that is machine-washable and reusable, can properly absorb period and reduce or replace disposable feminine hygiene and sanitary products use.
RiA: In addition to your e-commerce platform, you have a strong footprint in China. How many brick-and-mortar shops do you operate and what is your omnichannel strategy?
Xiaolu: Our offline expansion has been rapid. NEIWAI’s first store opened in 2017; now we have over 150 stores in 40 cities in China. In May 2021 we opened a concept store in Shanghai’s Jing’an Kerry Centre. It is a new model of our retail practice, showcasing our full line of products, featuring exhibitions on female related topics, and representing a combination of “mind and body.”
NEIWAI’s e-commerce platforms are our most important sales and customer acquisition channels. They ensure that consumers can purchase our basic product lines with great ease. Offline stores are very important to us as well, as they provide a more complete brand experience, as well as full access to all of our product lines. Offline stores also allow an escape from the pure online traffic competition and the creation of differentiated customer experience.
RiA: Can you elaborate on your international strategy? What is next for NEIWAI?
Xiaolu: Our hope is that NEIWAI becomes a pioneer for an oriental brand going global, so that people can see and understand the true meaning of designed in China and what a modern Oriental brand can be. I feel that NEIWAI has been building our own unique brand equity and potential all these years, and these efforts will surely be rewarded.
Many people think branding is a mysterious, nebulous thing, but for us, branding is everything we do, every ad campaign we produce, and every piece of content we write. It all affects how users perceive our brand. We will continue to do so when we expand to international markets.