Fans of

hanfu

participate in a fashion show in Taiyuan, Shanxi province, on May 1. [Photo by Wei Liang/China News Service]


Young customers driving demand for textile-based products used for thousands of years

Internet-savvy young people, or Generation Z consumers, who often share their hobbies with others, are driving the popularity of traditional Chinese garments like

hanfu

.

Much of that interest can also be traced back to the country’s impressive economic growth and growing international presence in the last few years. With China becoming more self-confident in recent years, people are once again expressing interest in traditional dresses and garments, which in turn has given a new lease of life to

hanfu

-related businesses.

Zhang Yi, chief analyst at iiMedia Research, said during an interview with online fashion media Vogue Business that from a niche hobby to a fashionable trend, the popularization of

hanfu

is being driven by young customers.

Research firm CBNData estimates that in recent years,

hanfu

consumers are becoming increasingly younger on average, with the post-1990 and post-1995 generations contributing to an increasing amount of expenditure.

A report jointly released by Shanghai-based business media Yicai and T-mall showed that in 2019, post-1995 female consumers were the main consumption group of

hanfu

, accounting for around 80 percent of total consumers.

“The young generation’s buying power is rising and

hanfu

is gradually becoming mass-market fashion as it is more a carrier of traditional culture than mere clothing,” Zhang said.

He added that popular shows featuring Chinese costume dramas also accelerated the development of

hanfu

-related businesses. In addition, key opinion leaders’ recreation of movie characters wearing

hanfu

also drew in millions of online audience members.

Typically when one talks of traditional Chinese clothing, the first word that comes up is

qipao

. Some people even call it “the China Dress”. However, if one is faithful to history,

hanfu

is more worthy of the title. As opposed to

qipao

, which has only been around for three hundred years or so,

hanfu

has been around for some three millennia.


Hanfu

gets its name from the Chinese people themselves, most of whom are members of the Han ethnic group. Meanwhile,

fu

means clothing. Therefore,

hanfu

designates the traditional clothing worn by the Han ethnic group between the Huang Di or the Yellow Emperor era and late Ming (1368-1644) and early Qing (1644-1911) dynasties.

According to data from people.cn, Chinese

hanfu

consumers surpassed 2 million in 2018, triple the 2017 levels. A recent report from Guangzhou-based consultancy iiMedia Research estimated that by the end of this year, the number of people using

hanfu

products in China will reach 6.89 million, with total sales expected to reach 10.16 billion yuan ($1.6 billion).

Currently, there are more than 3,000

hanfu

-related enterprises in China, among which over 60 percent were registered in the past five years, said business information provider Tianyancha.

According to Tianyancha, in 2019, newly registered

hanfu

-related enterprises stood at over 1,000, while last year, the figure surpassed 800. From Jan 1 to May 13, there were 300 newly added

hanfu

-related companies in China.

Wan Yue, a post-1980s mother of two, became a

hanfu

enthusiast back in 2009. As someone belonging to the Han ethnic group, she said that she has always been eager to wear clothing that is representative of her community.

“Seeing people around me dressing up in their traditional garments, I have also often wished to find a dress that depicts the culture of my ethnic group,” she said.

In 2009, Wan joined a

hanfu

fan club. Apart from merely buying the garments, she began to learn about the culture and history behind the clothing.

Each suit has its own cultural and historic background, and is designed for certain occasions, she said.

Wan’s husband is also a

hanfu

enthusiast, and they hosted their wedding ceremony wearing grand gowns-the highest-standard of

hanfu

. Instead of wearing Western wedding dresses and suits, the couple thought it would be better to celebrate the special moment of their life wearing costumes of their own culture.

Today, the

hanfu

-loving couple have a daughter and a son. The family chooses to wear a whole set of

hanfu

suits during traditional Chinese holidays, such as Spring Festival. They also mix and match

hanfu

with common outfits during daily life.

“Me, my husband and my daughter and son all have our own

hanfu

suits, altogether adding up to 50 to 60 sets. The price of each set ranges from 200 yuan to 5,000 yuan. I also purchase handbags, headdresses and earrings to match the suits,” Wan said.

Wang Tata, a post-1990 office clerk in Shanghai, became a

hanfu

fan since junior high school. In college, she joined a

hanfu

club, where she and other members shared information about affordable

hanfu

stores, and organized outings wearing

hanfu

.

When Wang graduated and started to make money on her own, she traveled at least once a month, often wearing

hanfu

.

“I’ve worn

hanfu

in the Tengger Desert in northwestern China, at the beach in Pingtan, Fujian province, in the Great Tang All Day Mall in Xi’an, Shaanxi province, as well as in the Forbidden City in Beijing. Wherever the scenery matches, I wear

hanfu

,” she said.

When asked about the money she spends on

hanfu

, Wang said the average price of a

hanfu

suit she purchases is usually hundreds of yuan. However, she noted that the market price varies, and some high-quality

hanfu

suits are priced at over 10,000 yuan.

Guangzhou-based customized

hanfu

manufacturer Minghuatang is known as the “Hermes of

hanfu

“.A hand-woven golden threaded tissue sells for 7,800 yuan, while a whole set of

hanfu

decorated with lotus and phoenix is priced at 9,600 yuan.

Industry insiders said that in contrast to Western tailored modern clothing,

hanfu

has higher requirements for raw materials, workmanship and tailoring. Certain manufacturing procedures such as embroidery can only be completed manually, and purely manual production means longer working times and higher costs, contributing to the high prices.

Apart from the high-end market segment, inexpensive

hanfu

products are also popular. Data from Alibaba’s Taobao platform showed that

hanfu

priced between 100 yuan and 300 yuan took up over 60 percent of sales, while products over 500 yuan accounted for roughly 30 percent of sales.

Jiang Hui, founder of e-commerce platform Maoke123.com, said that

hanfu

is a one-in-a-million product with “five highs”-high per customer transactions, high gross profit margins, high repurchase rates, high friend-sell rates and high growth rates-and enterprises should grasp business opportunities and tap into the market.



Hanfu

enterprises should integrate online and offline channels to build a complete sales system. They should also work on brand operation to enhance business scale and influence,” said Huang Zhengneng, founder of Hangzhou-based fashion brand Xyzstar.

Some emerging business opportunities should also be recognized. For example,

hanfu

showrooms that enable consumers to experience

hanfu

and enjoy their afternoon tea time,

hanfu

rental stores and children’s

hanfu

all enjoy great business potential, said Wang Yiting, an analyst at Vogue Business.