This afternoon a friend and I set out for the Joy City shopping mall Apple store to purchase his first Mac product. The eight story den of consumerism was hopping - not with brothel-goers, as the name might imply, but with consumers itching to shop at Sephora, Calvin Klein, Zara, H&M and other international chains.
After a ridiculously bad experience in the Apple Store we decided to use several hours of waiting time to sate our appetite for Sichuan food and Dairy Queen, and then to buy me a new pair of sneakers. I decided to skip the New Balance shop, only gave cursory glances to Adidas and Nike, and headed to the Li-Ning store. Li-Ning is a Chinese sportwear brand, akin to Adidas and Nike, selling sports shoes, clothing and equipment to a mostly Chinese audience, with a reputation for quality akin to the international brands. The company has entered into the U.S. market but it is still building it's reputation for North American consumers.
Walking in, the usual "I am a giantess foreigner whose feet will not fit into anything you have" concern was foremost in my mind. I decided to try anyway. The first pair of shoes I asked about was not available in my size (European size 40-41) in women's shoes, but there was a men's version. The shop assistant did not bat an eyelash when I said I wanted to see the men's, he just said 'ke yi' (okay) and went to get them from the storeroom. Maybe it was because I'm a foreigner and I'm intimidating, maybe it was that he didn't care, but it was a complete 180° turn from my experience in the U.S. when I attempt to try on men's shoes. The whole time I was there the assistant seemed helpful and was willing to answer my questions using vocabulary for the Mandarin-impaired.
The first pair of shoes was a bit loose around my toes so I tried on several others. Mostly in blue. There was only one pair of women's shoes I tried, a fun pair of red running shoes with some black, but the largest size was too small if I actually want to do any moving in them. The final pair I tried, a men's running shoe in white and blue, was comfortable and fit well, and even stood up to the hard cornering and stopping I did as I ran laps around the shop to test them out. The chevron-like logo on the side was coming off so the assistant pulled a new pair from the storeroom for me which had the logo firmly in place.
If Li-Ning starts to make larger women's sizes I'll go back to buy the red sneakers. Until then, I'm quite happy with my new blue men's running shoes. I'll see for myself if the quality is comparable to the international brands and if they are as comfortable.