The cult following of designer lifestyle brand Tagi., explained

Key takeaways:

  • Tagi. celebrates its 5th anniversary with a new store in Aranya, where it held pop-ups twice last year.
  • The brand has a hardcore following among its customers, but outsiders find it overpriced
  • The brand provides an emotional value, referred to as the “dopamine tax” by followers.

Earlier this month, Chinese designer lifestyle label Tagi. opened their 4th permanent Tagi. House store in the small seaside town of Aranya, Hebei after Shanghai, Beijing and Chengdu. Reflecting the spring drop “Ocean Sailing”, the latest store is nautically themed, with porthole-shaped windows and shellfish/starfish-inspired installations outside, as well as cabin-style furnishings inside.

Founded in 2019, the brand Tagi. is known for its playful and imaginative design. Indeed, the brand’s full name is “Timely access of gripping imagination”. The brand’s physical image, since its first offline location the mini Tagi. House in Shanghai from 2022, is its simple and minimal store layout coupled with the colourful and playful design of its homeware and fashion items.

The brand’s physical image is its simple and minimal store layout coupled with the colourful and playful design of its items

Timely access

Coinciding with the brand’s 5th anniversary, the latest Aranya store, or “Tagi. House” was not the first time the brand opened a location in the Northern seaside town near Beijing. In May and December 2023, Tagi.’s mobile Tagi. House pop-up project already brought the creative time-limited stores and colourful check-in (打卡) hotspots to Aranya twice.

The May edition was to celebrate Tagi.’s 4th birthday. The brand brought a cake-shaped building to the shores of Aranya. The December outing was part of the Christmas campaign where Tagi. brought pop-ups with different motifs of an amusement park theme to 3 pop-up stops in China, other than the three stores in Shanghai, Chengdu and Beijing. From the Apple Cake House in Wuhan via a giant Apple Gift House in Aranya, to the Clock Slide House in Chongqing.

Irrational consumption?

It’s not just the stores and pop-ups that catch the eyes of netizens and residents. The products themselves also drive many followers of the brand, as well as attracting high-profile collaborators. The brand has 145,700 followers on the lifestyle platform Xiaohongshu (RED) and 59,000 followers on Weibo, China’s Twitter equivalent. This is a large following for a niche brand like Tagi.

As the brand fosters an arguably “cult following”, many outside the fan circle wonder at the brand’s prices. Its bestseller on Tmall, the vacuum water bottle with straw, or tumbler, retails for 229 RMB (31.51 USD) while a Lock & Lock one only costs 119 RMB (16.38 USD), a little more than half the price of Tagi.’s and the MINISO cup costs only 49.9 RMB (6.87 USD). Similarly, its number 2 best seller the Hadou Storage Bag, or makeup pouch, will set you back 199 RMB (27.38 USD) and MINISO’s similar offering costs 59.9 RMB (8.24 USD).

With prices 2 to 4 times those of competitors, the lifestyle brand’s GMV on Taobao and Tmall still grew nearly threefold in 2023. For practical items such as homeware, it doesn’t seem to fit the “rational consumption” narrative of today, and many call it “IQ tax”, a way for Chinese netizens to describe duping consumers.

Dopamine tax?

However, many followers of the brand are aware of the price discrepancy, and they gladly call it “dopamine tax”. It is the added value of joy when buying, owning and using the designer items that they pay for.

Tagi.’s price, whilst it doesn’t fit the “value-for-money” criteria, is still accessible. Meanwhile, many of the customers are “self-pleasers” who buy things for the joy it brings to themselves. Others find that the designer products make great gifts.

Tagi.’s consistently creative and unique designs are what quickly set the brand apart. Bringing a toy-like joyfulness to the colourful and whimsical designs of everyday items that are supposed to be practical. With minimal but still warmly welcoming stores offline and highly engaging and equally playful social media, the brand image is vivid and approachable. This is one of the reasons its followers have a strong sense of community.

Emotional value, pleasant design and community building can provide many, a strong and resonant message: dopamine

We are in an age where emotional value, pleasant design and community building can provide many, mostly women, a strong and resonant message. The message in this case, is dopamine, the playful happiness when buying, looking at and using these items. Through community building and effective “seeding” on social media, as well as a strong physical presence via shops and pop-ups, Tagi. is certainly driving home the idea of emotional value.