Chinese and Americans share many cross-cultural interests, such as movies, music, fashion, and now one of the hottest trends on both continents is... sneakers.
But not just any sneakers: limited edition, vintage collectors items, like Air Jordan, Nike Air Max, Adidas Yeezy Boost, Revenge X Storm, Fear of God Military, and more.
"It may sound crazy, but we see ourselves as kind of cultural ambassadors creating bridges between the U.S. and China," Jiahuan Xia, a partner and co-founder of SoleStage, a leading limited edition sneaker reseller, told Xinhua Sunday. "Nothing communicates better across cultures than a shared passion."
"When you collect cool kicks, it doesn't matter if you are American or Chinese or from anywhere else in the world," added one of his co-founding partners, Yu Zhang.
An expert at intuiting the links between fashion and one's sense of identity, Xia explained, "We all love basketball and rap music, so sneakers become a common language for young guys like us. If I see their sneakers, I can tell just by looking at them what they like and what kind of a person they are."
Led by rappers, pro-ballers and young Hollywood celebrities whose fame gives them that coveted "cool factor," limited edition sneakers have come of age and are all the rage in both China and the United States.
That popularity has spawned a massive athletic shoe industry that topped 60 billion US dollars worldwide in 2018 and is expected to rise to 95 billion US dollars by 2025, according to 29-year-old Zhang.
Limited quantities of any popular commodity naturally spawn fierce competition amongst buyers eager to possess it. According to Forbes, that has fueled a billion dollar secondary resale market in which a rare model bought for a mere 190 US dollars can rocket up in price overnight to 6,000 US dollars a pair.
A Chinese-owned U.S. consignment store chain, SoleStage is riding that wave.
SoleStage was founded in 2013 by Lei Wang, Zhang, and the youngest, Xia, three young Chinese guys who shared a passion for athletic shoes. At the tender ages of 13 to 15, they all started out, separately, as collectors, but got fired up with entrepreneurial zeal when they realized how profitable resale opportunities were.
"We decided to go into business together when we realized that separately we were just driving up prices for each other, but if we worked together, we could combine our expertise and connections and get great products at better prices," Zhang explained.
"It was hard in the beginning because some buyers were afraid that because we were Chinese we might be selling fakes. So we had to work extra hard to build our reputation for honesty and access to rare, authentic products," revealed Zhang.
And that hard work paid off.