Nike China pulls shoe range after designer shows support for Hong Kong protests

Brand has reportedly axed limited-edition line by Undercover.

Nike China: website still showing React Element 87 shoes, developed in collaboration with Undercover
Nike China: website still showing React Element 87 shoes, developed in collaboration with Undercover

Nike has reportedly stopped selling a line of sports shoes in China after the design brand that created them, Undercover, posted a picture of protestors in Hong Kong with the line "No extradition to China" on its Instagram account, which has more than 800,000 followers.

The post, which has since been deleted, sparked negative comments from Instagram users in China, according to the Financial Times. Instagram is blocked in China, but it can be accessed using virtual private networks.

The FT reported that Chinese retailer YY Sports, which is owned by Nike's Chinese partner Pou Sheng International, said on social media that it had received an "urgent message" from Nike to pull the shoe line and other vendors in China are said to have also removed Undercover products. 

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.

Screengrab from picture on Hong Kong website Stand News showing Instagram post and image of Takahashi 

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 16 June to protest the bill, which has since been suspended.

Undercover was founded in 1990 by Japanese designer Jun Takahashi. Sold in department stores around the world, the brand is currently stocked in 15 mainland Chinese 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 launched in 2010 and has been followed by new collections.

It is not clear exactly which shoe line Nike has pulled in China, but Nike x Undercover Daybreak was the latest project between the brands. Launching on 21 June, it was a reintroduction of the 1980s Daybreak line. There are no shoes from the Undercover Daybreak line currently showing on the Nike page of YY Sports' ecommerce platform or on Nike China's page. 

Latest Nike project on Undercover's website

Nike China has not responded to Campaign Asia-Pacific's request for comment.  

A version of this story first appeared on Campaign Asia-Pacific

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