Sports The rise of Chinese athleisure wear: Junyi raises millions to take on the world

Sports The rise of Chinese athleisure wear: Junyi raises millions to take on the world

Sports

As the Winter Olympics draws near, sports are trending in China’s capital markets.

Junyi, a cross-border sports retailer, recently completed a 100 million yuan ($15.7 million) Series A financing round, led by CICC Capital and Blue Lake Capital.

  • Founded in 2014, Junyi sells products in mainly five categories: yoga, running, outdoor wear, swimming, and cycling. It sells through Amazon and other mainstream ecommerce platforms and distributes to North America, Europe, Japan, South Korea, and elsewhere.
  • It owns the athleisure brand Baleaf, a company whose website looks like that of any other Western apparel store — with zero indicators that it is a Chinese brand.
  • According to the founder, Xú Mùxuān 徐慕瑄, Junyi is aiming to make affordable athleisure wear that combines performance and durability with comfort and fashion.

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The context: ​​The government has encouraged more sports awareness in recent years amid rising child obesity rates, deteriorating mental health, and a perceived crisis in masculinity. Meanwhile, urban consumers are becoming more aware of the health benefits to physical exercise.

  • In 2019, the State Council outlined a plan to build China into a “leading sports nation,” setting a goal to have “people who exercise” account for over 45% of the population by 2035. In 2019, 169,000 sports venues were constructed across China, according to a survey by the General Administration of Sports.
  • Xu told the tech blog 36kr that 2022 presents a “big test year” for China-made companies to establish their brand globally.
  • Based in Fujian — the home of first-generation Chinese sports brands like Anta and Qiaodan — Junyi has a team of over 150 people, many of whom are young millennials from Chinese internet companies and the traditional apparel industry.

The takeaway: Chinese culture has long prized academic performance over physical fitness, but things are changing rapidly. Physical education was a central pillar of Beijing’s education reforms last year, with some schools now prioritizing gym classes even more than English classes. The future for athleisure wear looks bright.

sports

Chang Che is SupChina’s Business & Technology staff writer. His work has been published in The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Foreign Affairs, Nikkei Asia, and The LA Review of Books. You can follow him on Twitter at @changxche. Read more

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