The Sneaker King Believes Fashion Can Unite the World

Photo of Jiahuan Xia, wearing a brightly patterned jacket
Jiahuan Xia ’15

Jiahuan “Green” Xia ’15 — one of this year’s BOLD 9 honorees — launched his booming international streetwear business out of his Brandeis dorm room.

Using the Chinese social platform WeChat, he posted photos of items from his own wardrobe, showing off the sneaker and clothes collection he’d been building through Newbury Street shopping trips. Soon enough, he’d amassed a large following of streetwear aficionados back in China, his home country, who wanted to buy items right from his closet.

“I paid my tuition that way,” he says. “Paid my rent, all that stuff.”

This burst of residence-hall entrepreneurialism soon became a full-fledged operation. In 2016, Xia co-founded SoleStage, a high-end streetwear outlet that currently has physical storefronts in his adopted home of California, and in New York and China.

In 2019, Xia set out to become something of a cultural ambassador, founding Shine Marketplace, which he describes as the “first Chinese hype-culture streetwear incubator in North America.” Shine spotlights fashion and art created by Chinese and other Asian entrepreneurs and artists. More recently, Xia also founded Milly Rock Group, a fashion and art holding company.

Although his business ventures have come a long way, his aspirations are still greater: He hopes to truly live up to the “sneaker king” moniker given to him by Chinese media outlets. “I want to build a fashion empire,” he says.

To do that, Xia is leaning on what he learned as a double major in business and economics. “My business, economics and marketing strategy classes really helped me,” he says. “I studied Lululemon and how they transitioned from yoga pants to fashionable products that made them famous worldwide. I took accounting and finance classes, and learned how to do my books.”

He soaked up every piece of information he could on how to run a successful company. “I was a one-man team,” he says. “I had to do all aspects of my business. I learned what I needed to know from my classes at Brandeis.”

Today, Xia is committed to using his ventures as a vehicle for change. Politics and propaganda may drive wedges between people in the U.S. and China, he says, yet he’s seen firsthand that people are more alike than they are different.

His dream is to bring people everywhere together over a shared love of style.

“My company can be a bridge that connects people around the world,” he says. “Though politically they are against one another, along other aspects they can connect as friends and talk. Creativity is a universal language.”

— David Eisenberg