From November 22, 2003, Mr. Wang Letian, a private citizen, wear the traditional costume of the Han nation and walk on the street. Wang Letian’s action has been widely spread and has received a lot of support and response, and has set off a wave of the Hanfu movement in the country. In addition to the widespread of Hanfu enthusiasts, the Hanfu movement is also helped by Hanfu merchants.
Today, we will tell you the story of Hanfu merchants “Chonghui Han Tang (重回汉唐, Back to Han Tang)” and see how they have developed from opening the first Hanfu store to becoming the Hanfu head business in China.
The history of the development of the offline stores of Chonghui Han Tang can almost be seen from the changes in the Chinese Hanfu industry. 2006, the first offline store of Chonghui Han Tang was opened in Wenshufang, a commercial street in Chengdu, with less than 20 pieces of Hanfu hanging in a 30 square meter storefront.
Over the past ten years, Chonghui Han Tang has opened more than 30 directly-managed stores and more than 100 agency stores, covering almost every provincial capital city in China. The store in Wenshufang, because of its popularity, was changed from a small store in the middle of nowhere to 100 square meters storefront.
The continuous growth of the store side reflects the high growth of the industry, and the popularity of Hanfu is also evident to all. According to the “2020 Q1 China Hanfu Market Operation Monitoring Report” released by iiMedia Research, in 2020, China’s Hanfu industry maintained a high growth trend, while the scale of China’s Hanfu lovers maintained a high growth of over 70% for four consecutive years.
This is something neither Lü Xiaowei nor her husband Sun Yi expected. As the founders of Chonghui Han Tang, they had thought it would take 30 or even 50 years to bring Hanfu culture, which had been forgotten for centuries, back into the spotlight, “It’s all too soon.” Lü Xiaowei said.
First encounter with Hanfu
Before coming into contact with Hanfu, Lü Xiaowei made a stable and decent living as a journalist. She came across the Hanfu forum through Sun Yi and fell in love with Hanfu, and bought her first Hanfu from the seller’s section of the forum – a not-so-positive goose yellow color, not too elaborate in shape, and a repetitive, monotonous pattern of Yuanbao. During traditional festivals such as the Lantern Festival, Mid-Autumn Festival, she wore this dress constantly through the streets of Chengdu, popularizing Hanfu and the culture behind it to those who passed by.
“How can I buy this kind of Hanfu clothes?” The question posed by some interested people became a booster for Lü Xiaowei to open her store. “At that time, most Hanfu enthusiasts published the cutting diagrams online for people to refer to, so they could buy their own fabric and find a tailor to make it after the pictures. There were also some people who contacted merchants online and made purchases through remittances, but this was not popular at the time.” The poor path to purchase became the first obstacle to the revival of Hanfu. She decided to break away from her stable career as a journalist and chose to revitalize Hanfu as her future livelihood.
At the end of 2006, she chose to start with an offline store. Purely from the point of view of making money, physical stores are not the first choice. But Lü Xiaowei has always valued the experience of an offline store, she said: “For Hanfu, how to wear it, as small as how to tie the straps properly are all things that need to be experienced. Offline stores are the best way to get closer to the public”. Moreover, “The idea of Chonghui Han Tang is not only to sell goods but also to revive Hanfu.”
In 2020, Wenshufang held a parade of 1,000 people in Hanfu, and wanted to create the country’s first Chinese Hanfu costume character street. Hanfu culture has also taken root in Chengdu’s deep cultural heritage and inclusive cultural environment. Lü Xiaowei and Sun Yi, both of whom live in Chengdu, are fortunate to have an inherent advantage.
According to the report, in 2019, Chengdu has 104 Hanfu merchants and is number one in Hanfu sales nationwide. In 2018, the number of people buying Hanfu increased by 92% year-on-year, with Chengdu ranking first among the TOP 10 cities that buy the most hanbok. Chengdu has become a well-deserved number one city for Hanfu, Chonghui Han Tang as one of the biggest contributors while benefiting.
Insist on originality
At the beginning of the store, there were only four styles in the store. Later, Lü Xiaowei started to look for local tailors in Chengdu, but no one dared to try because of inexperience. Later, she finally found a seamstress who made performance clothes and classical types of clothes for the opera and dance troupes and reluctantly took orders.
Now the process of making Hanfu is becoming more and more standardized. Chonghui Han Tang has Hanfu designer, pattern maker, sample tailor, fabric buyer, and order taker. In the supply chain, there are fabric weaving and dyeing factories, digital printing factories, embroidery factories, garment processing factories, and button and other accessories manufacturers. Among them, it has more than 20 designers in the design segment.
In terms of design, Lü Xiaowei gives the designers full freedom, as long as they follow the traditional Chinese aesthetic-based framework, allowing them to make some fashionable and modern innovations.
At the same time, Chonghui Han Tang is insisting on promoting “originality”. Lü Xiaowei attaches great importance to the study of Hanfu pattern and form, and no matter how innovative it is, it is based on traditional aesthetics, which is also to maintain the original intention of “reviving Hanfu”. Lü Xiaowei mentioned that not only herself, but also her team of designers are working with scholars who are studying Chinese costumes in China, and are constantly promoting academic research and development.
Chonghui Han Tang has always insisted on staying active in the Hanfu community. They have been present at the annual Hanfu events, including Chinese Huafu Day, Huachang Jiuzhou event, 2020 Chinese Liyue Conference, and other events. Cross-border cooperation has also become a new way to explore, with the launch of Fantasy Westward Journey co-branded Hanfu, The Legend of Qin co-branded Hanfu. These cross-border collaborations have given Hanfu more room for imagination and reached a wider group of people.
Lü Xiaowei sees with an optimistic eye: all new things are touching the stones to cross the river, and so is the development of Hanfu. “We just have to do what we think is right, the rest can be left to the future to time”. This year, Lü Xiaowei has chosen to slow down the expansion of offline stores and focus on “practicing internal strength”.
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