China chic dominates graduation ceremonies

2024-06-11 17:18:04China Daily Editor : Mo Honge ECNS App Download

Students wearing traditional Chinese costumes are seen during a graduation photo-taking event at a university in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, on May 20. (CHEN SHENGWEI/FOR CHINA DAILY)

Wearing baccalaureate gowns adorned with traditional Chinese-style decorations is all the rage for Chinese and foreign graduates this year. The popularity of traditional Chinese attire is continuing to grow and such a trend has fueled the growth of online retailers.

In late May, the College of Media and International Culture of Zhejiang University held its graduation ceremony. The event was filled with domestic and foreign students wearing traditional Chinese-style outfits and decorations such as horse-faced skirts, or mid-length skirts with a distinct pleated design.

During the graduation gala, some foreign students wore hanfucostumes, traditional Chinese clothing of the Han ethnic group, and put on singing and dancing performances.

Other designs that students have worn for graduation photo shoots included floral hairpins, and yunjian— a traditional decoration that sits over the shoulders. As a result, a large number of online stores have launched traditional Chinese outfits or decorations such as yunjianahead of graduation season.

"Clothing, as an indispensable part of people's daily life, has long surpassed their basic functions and become an important carrier for consumers to showcase their personality and express their preferences," said Lou Lei, executive director of consultancy Frost &Sullivan China.

"With the revival of traditional Chinese culture in recent years, consumer demand for clothing with local characteristics and cultural heritage is growing, and sales of such clothing have embraced healthy growth," Lou said.

An Xinran, a foreign student from Australia, said she likes traditional Chinese-style clothing in her daily life. She regularly posts photos of herself wearing hanfuand qipaoonline.

Some other Chinese students bought academic caps and flowers online, and made academic hats decorated with flowers by themselves. They also posted videos of the construction process online and such videos have become a hit.

"I started to make preparations a long time in advance for the graduation photo shoot in traditional Chinese outfits, and I bought yunjianonline to match the baccalaureate gown. The photos turned out to be excellent and such special outfits added a sense of ritual to the graduation," said Yang Nan, a Chinese graduate.

College students wearing attires featuring Chinese cultural elements, such as gowns and yunjian, pose for graduation photos in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province. (CHINA DAILY)

As decoration for the shoulders, yunjian has long been suitable to wear with such a gown. In addition, oilpaper umbrellas and fans are becoming sought-after accessories that students can match with their gowns.

Double Seventh, an online store that sells hanfu on e-commerce platform Taobao, has accumulatively sold more than 3,000 pieces of yunjian after the store launched the product in August 2023. On the day of its launch, the store sold more than 1,000 pieces. Their yunjian carry a price tag of less than 100 yuan ($13.8) each.

The company also designed different colors of double-layered yunjianfor different majors at Zhejiang University. For instance, it designed pink yunjianfor liberal arts graduates, gray for science graduates and yellow for graduates in engineering majors.

In addition, the store launched a style of academic cap that is decorated with flowers. Sales in May surged more than 200 percent over April, it said.

Young Chinese consumers have demonstrated a growing demand for traditional Chinese attire this year, which is the Year of the Dragon.

In Chinese traditional astrology, which outlines the qualities of 12 zodiac signs, the Year of the Dragon is usually of great significance. The dragon symbolizes strength, wisdom and good fortune for Chinese people. This has spurred the popularity of such traditional Chinese elements.

During the Spring Festival holiday in February, various traditional Chinese-style outfits containing dragons and phoenixes became a hit among young consumers. The popularity of traditional Chinese outfits has continued for spring outings, weddings and graduation ceremonies.

"Young people's love for traditional culture is constantly growing. Traditional Chinese-style outfits have become a major choice for young graduates this year when they attend graduation ceremonies," said Hao Danyang, operational director of hanfubusiness at Taobao.

"An increasing number of female college students are interested in traditional Chinese culture and would like to demonstrate it through their outfits, indicating national identity and cultural confidence," Hao said.

Graduates pose for photographs at a college in Zhenjiang, Jiangsu province, on May 31. (YANG YU/FOR CHINA DAILY)

Founded in 2019, Hangzhou-based Double Seventh achieved sales revenues that ranked among the top three in the traditional Chinese attire online market. The store focuses on developing originally designed hanfu which is more suitable for daily wear. It is also considering the potential of opening brick-and-mortar stores in the future.

"I am highly optimistic about the growth prospects of the industry. Hanfu carries traditional Chinese culture and the government supports the development of related industry zones. We suffered losses from 2019 to 2022 due to the pandemic. Sales started to pick up in 2023 and jumped significantly this year," said Qing Yun, founder of Double Seventh.

The main customer group is aged between 18 and 25, and they are mainly young female consumers who like traditional Chinese attire. Most orders come from major cities in Zhejiang, Guangdong, Henan and Sichuan provinces; places that boast cultural relics and sightseeing spots which are suitable for wearing hanfu, Qing said.

He added that demand for red hanfufor engagement parties and weddings has been quite high. He expects the demand for such attire to increase in the latter half of this year, when it becomes the busy season of couples getting married.

From 2017 to 2023, sales of footwear and clothing of domestic brands that integrate Chinese cultural elements grew from 407.1 billion yuan to 992.8 billion yuan, with a compound annual growth rate reaching nearly 16 percent. The figure is significantly higher than the overall compound annual growth rate of footwear and clothing during the same period, according to consultancy Frost &Sullivan.

Guochao— national tide or China chic — is a broad concept that can be integrated with various consumer goods, cultural products, tourism, a city's image and other sectors. China-chic clothing is undoubtedly one of the first fields recognized and accepted by consumers, the consultancy said.

On the other hand, the rapid development of e-commerce platforms, especially the rise of livestreaming sessions, has provided good exposure and sales channels for emerging China-chic brands, the consultancy said.

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