China Paradigms interviewed Dominic Johnson, the founder and CEO at Plastered8, to learn how to start an apparel business in China and turn a business into a recognizable Beijing T-shirt brand.
Dominic Johnson, a creative entrepreneur with impressive experience who has successfully defined his niche in China. With 20 years of entrepreneurial experience in mainland China, Dominic Johnson has plenty of stories to share, among them the Plastered8 business case.
Before Dominic settled down in Beijing in 1995, he has traveled all over the world to meet different people and experienced various customs. Based on the rich and diversified experience, Dominic finds himself equipped with enough creativity and a talent for art.
Dominic frankly admitted that he wasn’t good at studying at school, but it is important to celebrate yourself and perceive oneself adequately it helps come up with new ideas:
“I try to celebrate who I am, enjoy life and then the ideas seem to come very quickly.”
With this faith in mind, Dominic has delivered several speeches in various Chinese universities to inspire students to celebrate themselves and cherish their own talents.
Plastered8, a Beijing T-shirt brand with a focus on Chinese aesthetics
Plastered8 is an iconic clothing brand based in Nan Luo Gu Xiang, Beijing. It combines fashion with traditional Chinese icons, just like Beijing, an exciting place uniting layers of different times and societies:
“It’s a strange place where you can see officials with a civilian, not far from where you are and at the opposite – hipsters and very trendy café at the same time.”
As Nan Luo Gu Xiand is created on creativity, Plastered8 is also an innovative Beijing T-shirt brand. Dominic has collected different Chinese elements to create Plastered8’s, for example, Beijing old subway tickets and old mugs. Through the delicate design and attention to Chinese nostalgic elements, it is no wonder Plastered8 has become quite popular among foreigners and Chinese youths.
Different from other general Chinese art brands, Plastered8 has its a specific focus on Chinese pop-art. To ensure their distinctive focus from other brands, Dominic is careful about the scale and orientation of the business: rather than developing rapidly online, Plastered8 is more focused on giving its customers a good experience of Chinese aesthetics at offline stores.
“I love creating an experience, so our stores in Beijing are all about the experience,” said Dominic.
Define your niche in China: the key to be competitive in the giant market
“Define your niche in China so that you can be competitive and have a market.”
Dominicdefines his niche by creating a Chinese art brand that focuses on Beijing pop art; as being said, since the Chinese apparel market is extremely competitive, it is necessary to have an exclusive proposal.
It may take a long time to define your niche, for instance, Plastered8 has overcome the next path: at first, it was a general apparel company, then it transformed into a Chinese art brand, later on, it also developed business in print design.
“It’s crazy but we have this niche and no one else really does it as well as we do.”
Talking about his cooperation with other apparel companies like Lu-Lu Lemon, Dominic has taken a risk in cooperating with his competitor to some extent. However, Plastered8 is so unique in the apparel industry that there is no need to worry about other competitors that will replace their sandpits. In order to understand one’s sandpit, Dominic has shared his view of 3F, which is Fun, Financial, and Fame. To define your niche in China, sometimes you have to quit some opportunities that can bring you great financial profits.
Brand collaboration in China: choose the business allies that suit you best
Dominic continued to discuss the issue of choosing a suitable, rather than highly profitable, brand in China with which productive cooperation is possible.
Plastered8’s first and most influential collaboration was with Moka Bros the healthy fast-casual restaurant. At that time, Moka Bros offered Dominic a huge wall to design:
“I have got this huge wall and I don’t know what to do with it, and I just saw an opportunity to develop print design business in China and I said, give me that wall and I am going put a big piece of artwork on it and give you that for free.”
Although the wall was designed by Plastered8 for free, it soon brought them huge attention from the customers coming into that cafe store. This proved to be a successful brand collaboration in China as it functioned as an amazing advertisement for Plastered8. Therefore the brands’ collaboration in China is more than just profit.
Accordingly, the most financial-benefit brand collaboration in China may not be as impressive as we thought it could be. Especially for the print design business, it would be better to choose open public space than private or limited places like offices:
“In the corporate office no one is going to see it but they give you a lot of money.”
Referring to Dominic’s depiction, an excellent brand collaboration in China means to choose the partnership that suits your brand’s objectives, especially for a beginning business, the advertisement influence will be more attractive than economic interests.