Nike has reportedly stopped selling a line of sports shoes in China after the design brand that created them, Undercover, posted a picture of protesters in Hong Kong with the line ‘no extradition to China’, on its Instagram account, which has over 800,000 followers.
The post, which has now been deleted, sparked negative comments from Instagram users in China, according to the Financial Times. Instagram is blocked there but it can be accessed using virtual private networks (VPNs).
Other netizens took to the Chinese platform Weibo to discuss Undercover. One, whose Weibo account name is "H-俊辉“ (H-Junhui), wrote "I will never buy any Undercover products" under the hashtag #undercoversupportsHongKongprotests (#undercover支持港独#).
The FT reported that the Chinese retailer YYSports, which is owned by Nike's Chinese partner, Pou Sheng International, said on social media that Nike had sent it an "urgent message" to pull the shoe line and other vendors in China are said to have removed Undercover products as well.
Some Undercover stockists such as Dover Street Market and Shine in Beijing were still showing the brand's products on their websites.
Undercover reportedly said that the post was an “individual opinion” and had been posted in error.
The ongoing protests in Hong Kong started after the government proposed a bill that would allow extradition to a host of countries with whom Hong Kong does not currently have such agreements, including mainland China. Two million people took to the streets in Hong Kong on June 16 to protest the bill, which has been suspended.
Undercover is a men’s and women’s clothing brand by the Japanese designer Jun Takahashi, who started it in 1990 while studying at the Bunka Academy of Fashion in Tokyo. Sold in department stores around the world, the brand is currently stocked in 15 mainland China stores, according to its website.
Takahashi is a keen runner and Undercover and Nike have a long and successful history of collaborative projects. After working together on the Match Classic trainer in 2009, a full range of high-end running gear called Nike x Undercover Gyakusou (meaning ‘reverse running’) was first launched in 2010 and has been followed up with successive new collections since.
It is not clear exactly which shoe line Nike has pulled in China, but Nike x Undercover Daybreak was the latest joint project between the two brands. Launching on June 21, it was a reintroduction of the 1980s Daybreak line with some shoes being given a refresh from Undercover. There are no shoes from the Undercover Daybreak line currently showing on the Nike page of YYSports' e-commerce platform, or on Nike China's page of sneakers for sale.
Nike China has not responded to Campaign Asia's request for comment.