Taylor Swift to launch clothing line in China to thwart counterfeiters

Taylor Swift is proving that she will never go out of style by starting her own fashion line for the Chinese market. It is the latest development in the pop star's fight against merchandisers selling unauthorized products.

Charles Sykes/Invision/AP/File
Singer Taylor Swift performs during her "1989" world tour at MetLife Stadium on Saturday, July 11, 2015, in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Swift is launching her own fashion line, but it will only be available in China.

Taylor Swift is launching her own fashion line and has authorized a third-party company to sell her merchandise for the first time ever. But the clothes and merchandise will only be available in China.

JD.com, an online direct sales company, will sell the pop star’s clothing line and other merchandise in the country, according to a Monday press release. The items will be on sale in August, three months ahead of Ms. Swift’s Shanghai stop on her 1989 World Tour. She partnered with Heritage66 Company, which represents American artists seeking to expand their reach in China, to create her clothing line.

"JD.com is delighted to become the sole online source of authentic, high-quality Taylor Swift merchandise," Richard Liu, JD.com founder and CEO, said in the release. "She is an enormously popular artist and true global cultural icon who is winning over thousands of new fans in China each day. It is gratifying to be recognized as China's online shopping platform of choice for those who value authenticity and quality."

Prior to the announcement, Swift only sold merchandise on her official website. Over the past few years, she has garnered attention  for seeking legal action against people selling products containing lyrics, logos, or her likeness on marketplace websites like Etsy.

According to BuzzFeed, sellers on Etsy say they consider themselves to be just fans who never intended to make a profit off the items. Nonetheless, several Etsy stores received cease and desist letters in February to stop selling mugs, pillows, candles, or other items with her lyrics. Earlier this year, Swift also had registered more lyrics and phrases from her 1989 album in addition to her other trademarks, including “Cause we never go out of style,” “this sick beat,” “Nice to meet you. Where you been?” and “Party like it is 1989.” She has registered her name and initials in various renditions that have appeared on her albums.

Swift faces such issues in China as well; the market for authorized goods and counterfeited goods is growing along with her popularity. Bloomberg reports that as JD.com looks to rival Alibaba’s success as the No. 1 e-commerce company in the country, “JD is wooing U.S. brands by eschewing the knockoff merchandise that’s common in some Chinese marketplaces.” The partnership could help Swift thwart the Chinese counterfeiting. 

Not only is China one of the fastest growing retail markets in the world, but celebrity endorsements are a more prominent part of popular culture than they are in the United States, according to joint research from Pennsylvania State University and the Indian School of Business. In emerging markets, celebrity advertising is considered a form of entertainment, and celebrity spokesmen are considered role models.

 A 2010 study from Journal of Sport Administration & Supervision also found that Chinese consumers tend to be more receptive to athlete-celebrity endorsements than American consumers. Part of the reason is that China has a “high power distance culture” – which means people are more likely to perceive authority figures and high-status individuals, like celebrities, as being right and follow their directions. So while Swift has a devoted fan following in the US, her influence could be even bigger in countries like China.

Still, fans outside of China expressed disappointment that they won't be able to buy from Swift's line clothing line. But even then, they are still excited for the line and hope to eventually buy the crop tops and high-waisted skirts Swift dons on a regular basis. 

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