NEIWAI launched in Shanghai in 2012 with the aspiration to create lingerie & loungewear that free their wearers’ bodies and minds. In this interview, RLI sits down with Co-Founders Xiaolu Liu and Jiang Li to discuss how the brand has evolved over the past nine years and what they have planned to keep moving forward.
Using premium fabrics and unique designs, NEIWAI crafts clothing that allows its wearers the freedom to express themselves and to live their lives in uninhibited comfort. Their products are meant for more than just being worn day-to-day, they’re made to live in. They are practical, stylish, comfortable and ready to go wherever life takes them.
NEIWAI celebrates women everywhere, and they strive to be a constant companion on every adventure in their life – in every precious moment. This has been the company’s vision from the start and continues to guide them even today.
The business currently operates more than 110 stores in 29 cities in China, with plans to open their first physical location in the US in the near future. They are currently growing in the US market, but their operations are for the time being online-only.
“We first entered the US market in early fall last year. We intended to establish our first physical store in San Francisco, but the Covid-19 pandemic forced us to delay those plans. In the meantime, we’ve redirected our efforts to the NEIWAI website and so far sales have been steadily growing,” says NEIWAI Co-Founder Xiaolu Liu. “We know that offline experiences are still very important in terms of providing a complete brand experience and a full brand concept, so we’re looking forward to returning to those plans in the near future,” adds Co-Founder Jiang Li.
Offline expansion has been rapid since the launch of its first store in 2017. This month they’ll be opening a flagship store in the heart of Shanghai’s high-end fashion and lifestyle district at Jing’an Kerry Center. The new store will present a new concept of their retail practice, showcasing a full line of products and featuring exhibitions on topics such as their brand concept of uniting ‘mind and body’ in comfort.
“The fundamental idea behind this new concept store revolves around a woman’s body, for example, you will discover that there are many curved shapes and outlines, designed to express the silhouette of a woman’s body and the fluidity of her spirit,” explains Liu.
Everything the company does, be it brand campaigns or product design, it comes from a place of understanding a NEIWAI woman. The idea is to be this companion to her in her everyday adventure and in every precious moment this is infused into their product design.
“We continue to push ourselves internally on creating a more inclusive product scope to fit more body types, more scenarios and lifestyles. We aspire to highlight how woman in our ages have grown internally,” adds Li.
Wherever possible, the company prefers to meet its customers where they are, then guide them to a curated space that allows them to not only shop NEIWAI, but to experience NEIWAI. In China, this is done through distinctive store design, whilst in the US emphasis is placed more on social media interactions and online branded experiences. The founders believe value is key in creating customer loyalty, and value is in more than just product. They explain that creating value through customer interactions, whether offline or online, is the most important way to ensure their customers remain their customers.
Ever since the brand launch in 2012, it has treated social media platforms as a vital channel to connect with its consumers, and for them content is pivotal – honest, fresh and compassionate content. In China, Wechat, Weibo and RED are the main brand communication channels, whilst they’ve also enjoyed success on Instagram and Facebook while at the same time growing on other platforms like YouTube and TikTok.
Influencers have been instrumental to their growth on social media and NEIWAI has noted how it is becoming increasingly important for brands to seek out key opinion leaders (KOLs) who will enjoy the product and who have audiences who will do likewise.
With such a strong brand identity, what does Liu feel is the ethos of NEIWAI?
“Women’s freedom of expression, both in body and mind, are the primary goals of everything NEIWAI designs and produces, and we are committed to proving that to every customers in every sale. We want our customers to experience unparalleled comfort and support, and the entire team shares that goal.”
As the interview comes to a close, we ask Li what lies ahead and what particular challenge faces the company in the near future?
“The balance between the scale of the brand and its core values is something a brand at our stage needs to find. It’s a very nuanced process. For us, not only do we aspire to evolve into a great business success, but also become a brand that has a voice for women, and eventually have actual influence on the society as a whole. Brand culture and value is something we hold very dear to our heart and we are confident that this will be a fundamental pillar that supports the brand to be long-lasting and prosper.”