For its Paris Fashion Week debut, the Chinese sports icon Li-Ning reflects on the historic achievements of its founder and namesake, the legendary Olympic gymnast Li Ning. His personal story—a focal point of the brand’s heritage—unfolds across apparel and footwear that references the graphics and aesthetic language of Mr. Li’s heyday. Yet the result is progressive and contemporary with oversize proportions, advanced fabrics, street-inspired silhouettes, and clashing colorways.
For Spring/Summer 2019, the collection centers around the moment that Mr. Li won six out of seven gold medals at the Sixth World Cup Gymnastic Competition in 1982, which instantly transformed him into a Chinese national hero and earned him the nickname, “the Prince of Gymnastics.” Two years later, in 1984, he became the most honored athlete at the Summer Olympic Games, winning three gold medals, two silver, and one bronze. This origin tale is the foundation of the collection, which features alternative athletic-wear like asymmetric tops and cropped sweats, often emblazoned with slogans like “Leaning on Li-Ning” and “The Legend Begins” in Chinese and English.
Established in 1990, Li-Ning is driven by the unlimited potential of the human body. “Our brand carries the genes of an athlete,” he says. Its founding mission, as described by Mr. Li, was, very simply, to provide Chinese athletes with national brands to wear as they took the global stage of the Olympics—historically one of the West’s rare portals into Chinese culture.
(Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images)