“Design in China” E67 – TAGI : Unleashing Imagination in Lifestyle Branding

In the bustling streets of Chengdu, Tagi, a burgeoning lifestyle brand, has recently unfurled its newest creative endeavor – the “Tagi House.” The homepage of Xiaohongshu (Little Red Book) is abuzz with numerous quirky objects endorsed by this brand. What fuels this burgeoning fascination with such charming and whimsical “nuggets” of life? For the past few years, emerging lifestyle brands have encountered a sort of “essay question” challenge: amid a market teeming with popular items like phone cases, water bottles, and backpacks, how can you continuously unveil novel products that leave consumers delighted while distinctly conveying your brand’s style?

Tagi’s answer to this conundrum is simple: “IMAGINATION.”

In Tagi’s products, you always find a hint of ingenious creativity that makes you chuckle – be it their “candied apple” cup, the “rain guardian” umbrella, or a water bottle-shaped sling bag. The product names alone exude a refreshing uniqueness, a carefree vitality, almost a whimsical detachment from the ordinary. Tagi aspires to make products that reflect imaginative concepts while exuding a sense of liberating style.

Tagi’s Imagination: Where Creativity Meets Lifestyle

Tagi, founded in 2019, has swiftly risen to become a beloved young creative lifestyle brand. With over 50,000 followers on Weibo, 80,000 on Xiaohongshu, and a whopping 711,000 on Taobao, this brand has garnered an enthusiastic fan base. Their products, whether homeware or apparel, have been grounded in the routines of everyday life from the very beginning.

The inaugural collection in 2019, inspired by a typical weekend at home, featured items inspired by those cozy days when you simply hang out with friends at home, relish fresh fruits and vegetables, and share amusing anecdotes. It’s about the excitement that surges when you feel inspired after a day indoors – an outpouring of thoughts and creativity. When the weather turns sunny, you’re ready for a casual stroll. It’s about being in a state where your inner self is exposed, yet you’re always prepared for friends to drop by.

Fast forward to 2022, Tagi underwent a brand revamp. The four letters in the brand name, Timely, Access of, Gripping, and Imagination, were redefined collectively to mean “timely access to gripping imagination.” Yet, their devotion to imagination remains tethered to daily life.

Products that veer too far from practicality may not gain the people’s favor. For instance, their analysis showed that some of their best-selling items included phone cases, cups, and hairpins. The reasons behind these being best-sellers are the eye-catching designs, reasonable prices, and above all, functionality. So, Tagi continued to release daily essentials that combined high value and strong functionality. This strategy has kept their customers engaged and enthused.

Now, every new product launch by Tagi is meticulously planned around a central theme. Themes like “summer relaxation at home,” “freedom at work,” or the “Tapi wishlist.” These themes don’t give away the product line-up, but they always encompass the signature Tagi traits – they’re easy, surprising, and brimming with imagination.

Direct to Consumer (DTC) Strategy: Connecting Imaginatively

At the helm of Tagi, we find someone who’s always been a passionate boundary-pusher. Duan Duan, the mastermind behind Tagi, is no stranger to entrepreneurship. Born in 1994, after completing her studies in digital media, she embarked on her first business venture, a dessert shop. Later, she ventured into a concept store. Tagi marks her third foray into entrepreneurship. There was a phase when she juggled all three businesses simultaneously. Duan Duan has always been inclined towards aesthetics, a perpetual explorer, and expresser of all things beautiful.

However, even the most avant-garde brand should express its concept effectively on a foundation that customers appreciate. Imaginative flights can sometimes lead to product ideas that are hard to actualize. For Tagi, this is an ongoing challenge – to balance their “out-of-the-box” design ethos with the technical pragmatism of execution.

A brand that symbolizes a lifestyle should address a wide array of life scenarios. Choosing which product category to develop often involves a complex deliberation. They need to discern if a product fits into the consumer’s lifestyle, and whether there’s an established consumption habit for that category in the market. Tagi often starts by selecting a few products in tandem with market trends and then tailors the design to meet the objectives.

In a creative brand like Tagi, aligning the entire team’s vision is challenging. Everyone operates at a different pace. Duan Duan, by her own admission, is inherently impatient but has learned to let go in her work. She oversees the direction of each new collection, making sure that a particular product, like a new cup, fits the overall brand identity. Once the product design phase begins, she entrusts the finer details to her colleagues.

Over the past four years, Tagi’s team has grown substantially. They have moved offices three times, and at the peak, the company boasted over 40 employees. Throughout this journey, Duan Duan had to learn various new aspects, like finances and HR, associated with company management. She has continually broadened her horizons.

The Offline Imagination: Tagi’s Retail Ambition

In August 2022, Tagi ventured into physical retail by establishing its first brick-and-mortar store in Shanghai, right on Urumqi Middle Road. This store, primarily adorned with wooden accents and warm hues, exudes a sense of coziness. It’s defined as a store that crafts enough contemporary surprises, a warm spot to meet with friends.

This space takes inspiration from the “seaside cabin” concept by Le Corbusier – a creative experiment with tiny living spaces. The cabin has all the amenities for a comfortable living. It’s the same principle that Tagi follows – they create a homely atmosphere across various scales of living spaces.

Further expanding their reach, Tagi often appears as a “flash mob” store in several Chinese cities, including Shenzhen, Qingdao, Guangzhou, Beijing, and Xi’an. This is the result of their prior experience participating in markets. Tagi’s flash stores always attract attention with bright colors and inventive designs.

Each new flash event triggers fan inquiries, eager to know if Tagi is coming to their city. They’ve affectionately named this ever-expanding map of new locations Tagi’s “Imagination Paradise.”

As the brand has grown, it’s encountered diverse voices and definitions. Duan Duan doesn’t mind if people label Tagi as an internet sensation. She firmly believes that “every brand has its DNA.” According to her, when a brand earnestly conveys its style, it will undoubtedly attract its unique fans. There are those fans who’ve been with Tagi from the very beginning, eagerly awaiting every new product release. There are also fans who discreetly share sightings of celebrities or internet sensations using Tagi products. This unspoken camaraderie only strengthens the community’s bonds.

Innovative Campaigns: Connecting with the Imagination

Tagi always seeks to push boundaries creatively and engage in their DTC strategy. Here are some innovative campaign strategies they’ve employed:

  • Immersive Pop-Up Stores: Tagi’s success with pop-up stores, such as “Tapi Houses” in Beijing and Chengdu, is a testament to their imaginative approach. These pop-ups are designed not just to sell products but to create immersive experiences. They use unique decor, interactive installations, and events that immerse visitors in the Tagi world.
  • Collaborations: Tagi often collaborates with other creative brands, designers, and artists. These collaborations result in limited-edition products that generate excitement among their audience and attract followers of their collaborators.

Its collaboration with Vans breaks new ground in creative lifestyle partnerships, infusing denim and color experimentation into classic shoe models. With a narrative inspired by a metaphorical library of creativity, the collaboration invites wearers to transform their shoes into customizable canvases. Beyond fashion, it represents a lifestyle statement, fostering a direct-to-consumer appeal and celebrating the intersection of street culture and artistic expression.

  • Limited-time Collections: Tagi frequently releases limited-time collections or “editions.” This scarcity and exclusivity drive urgency and demand among their customers. These editions are often tied to seasons, festivals, or themes, keeping the brand fresh and engaging.
  • Social Media Engagement: Tagi actively engages with its audience on social media platforms. They encourage customers to share their own Tagi experiences, creating a sense of community and a “by the people, for the people” vibe.

In a world where many brands converge on the same design ideas, Tagi continues to stand out by letting its imagination run free. Each product reflects the brand’s audacious vision, which is a blend of whimsy, aesthetics, and practicality. They understand that to create a lasting impact, a brand must foster creativity, add value, and infuse everyday life with imaginative twists.

Tagi is more than a brand; it’s an embodiment of the imaginative spirit, a torchbearer for those who cherish a break from the mundane and seek to infuse creativity into every facet of life.

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