Just in time for the spring flower viewing season, you can always find many videos on social media of girls wearing hanfu on spring tours during this May Day holiday. Nowadays, it’s not normal to go to major scenic spots and events in China without encountering young people wearing hanfu instead. Hanfu is no longer a niche hobby, but it has a long way to go to achieve true industrialization.
This wave of hanfu popularity is mostly crowded by young people under the age of 24. Some of them will buy more than 30 pieces of hanfu a year and wear them all the time except for sleeping; some are willing to spend half a year to make a treasured hanfu by hand, and some spend all their spare time on hanfu promotion activities.
Has Hanfu still considered a niche hobby?
From the 2019 Xi’an Datang Everbright City’s “Tumblers show”, to this year’s Spring Festival’s “Tang Palace Night Banquet” all received unanimous praise, the rise of traditional culture boom, and so has the attention to Hanfu. And this “hanfu popularity” is the first to attract young people.
Hui, a designer by profession, was initially attracted by the “classical beauty” of Hanfu. Hui said that a year ago, she inadvertently swiped to a TikTok video, the runway Hanfu models with flowing skirts, graceful, one after another from the center of the stage, her heart was instantly struck.
Hui did some research on the Internet and compared hanfu at different price points. She would buy some hanfu that were of ordinary quality and shape, but had a colorful design. After buying the hanfu, Hui was afraid to wear it on the street at first, but the photos she took of it were often appreciated by her friends. With the encouragement of her friends, she has now turned from a general enthusiast to a true “Tongpao (同袍, the collective name of hanfu revivalists)”.
Hui says she has bought more than 30 pieces of hanfu in the year since she fell in love with it. As her understanding of hanfu deepened, Hui paid more and more attention to the shape, workmanship, and texture of the cloth, and the purchase price kept rising.
Because of the relative freedom of her profession, Hui’s basic clothing is now all hanfu, except for sleeping. But even so, she says she is only a “beginner Tongpao”. The more senior hanfu Tongpao not only shoots promotional videos and make hanfu videos at their own expense, but also spend all their spare time on hanfu promotion activities and offline meetings, willing to devote all their time and energy to hanfu.
Li Xing is one of them. She thinks the hanfu on the market is not sophisticated enough, so she picks silk fabric from the fabric market and takes it to the tailor for processing. The production cycle of such a hanfu is at least one month or as long as six months, and the cost of a single piece is between 3,000 and 5,000 yuan.
Most Hanfu enthusiasts today are young people like Hui and Li Xing, and the expansion of this “niche hobby” is accelerating. According to iiMedia Research, the number of Hanfu enthusiasts in China grow 45% year-on-year to 5.163 million in 2020.
Of course, Hanfu boom can’t be separated from social media and Chinese historical drama publicity. With the promotion of ancient costume dramas that claim to be retro in costume and well-made, such as “The Story of Minglan” and “The Longest Day In Chang’an”, young people’s interest in traditional makeup and costumes in classical culture has begun to deepen. Coupled with “National Treasure”, “Masters in The Forbidden City”, “Chinese Poetry Congress” and other variety shows related to the traditional culture have repeatedly become word-of-mouth hits, Chinese traditional culture has also once again set off a revival trend.
The rise of Hanfu boom also stems from the meaning of personalization and self-expression in Hanfu, which precisely fits the consumer psychology of young people. Senior analyst Li Yingtao said, “The rise of China-Chic no longer stays in the psychology of hunting for Chinese elements, but the development and change of consumer demand.” He believes that young people no longer want to meet material needs, but many people’s consumption has risen to the level of “respect and self-fulfillment needs”, and the essence of Hanfu boom is the young generation’s high identification with traditional culture.
Traditional Hanfu VS Hanfu Inspired
Hanfu is a unique business with a difference. To make a good Hanfu brand, have to face a problem that cannot be ignored: the shape of Hanfu, and the different opinions of consumers about it.
There is no fixed system for the Hanfu culture that has emerged in recent years. Hanfu includes the traditional costumes of the Han people from the Zhou Dynasty to the end of the Ming Dynasty, and is generally characterized by flat cuts, large sleeves, straight collars and ties, waist binding. The different forms, structures, cutting styles, and so on, together make up the shape of the Han costume.
The reformist school advocates the integration of the hanfu into everyday life and the injection of modern elements into the hanfu. The restorationists, on the other hand, believe that the design of hanfu should strictly follow the ancient texts and cultural relics, and insist on “setting a bottom line” for hanfu, arguing that the lack of a unified standard for hanfu will weaken the symbolism, etiquette and ritual.
Li Xing has an inclusive attitude towards hanfu. She likes both restored hanfu and hanfu inspired that includes elements of hanfu; besides the form, the fabric, the way it is made and the fabric are also important to her. “Only scholars of ancient costume research can give a professional opinion on the form. Many young people who are just starting out are more interested in the external form.” She said.
The shape is the basic condition for hanfu. Unlike the casual design of fashion, hanfu has very strict definitions and norms, and since hanfu has been discontinued for more than 300 years, the main way to understand it is from cultural relics and literature. Based on the principle of rigor, the deeper the research, the higher the knowledge of hanfu will be.
But in everyday consumption, users are the ones who vote with real actions. Hui said that stores that make high-quality hanfu in the circle tend to have expensive products, such as Ming Hua Tang, but not many people buy them. Some stores with good designs and patterns and relatively low prices sell better instead.
A Hanfu merchant also confessed that the current market share of hanfu inspired accounts for about 80%, the share of the traditional Hanfu market is estimated to be less than even 5%, and there is a 15-20% market share of clothing that includes Han elements.
This trend is also revealed by the data from iiMedia Research: about 62.1% of Hanfu consumers prefer to make their Hanfu more beautiful while keeping the basic form unchanged, and another 19.7% prefer that Hanfu need not be limited to the form but should incorporate some modern elements. This shows that the majority of consumers can accept modernization based on the form.
In fact, with the influx of more and more hanfu lovers, the design of hanfu is starting to be more from aesthetic needs.
Huang Zhengneng, the founder of the original Han element brand, believes that the diversity and mixture of Chinese culture over the centuries has also laid the foundation for the inclusiveness of Chinese culture, and that a blanket confinement to the ancient world will become a heavy burden for creativity.
Today’s young people need to have a display function of Chinese clothing, in life and work more need to meet the daily basic wear, multi-scene wear, long-term wear, and most people can accept the Han elements of clothing, which is rooted in cultural traditions, but also in the pulse of the times, to show the current form of traditional culture, and young people have a higher interaction, will also glow more lasting vitality.
Difficulties faced by the Hanfu industry
In terms of cost, the difference between hanfu and traditional clothing is that the production is not standardized, the defect rate is high, and there are few skilled workers, which leads to long delivery time, complicated production process, and higher cost of time, labor, and loss. The training of original hanfu designers and the investment in photography and artwork all contribute to the high cost of production.
All clothing brands face the core demand for product design, and hanfu is no exception. But in the Hanfu industry, original designers are still very scarce, especially designers who can understand the aesthetic vision of young people are in short supply, “so the resources to design products are a common need in the industry.” Huang Zhengneng lamented.
While original resources are scarce, the supply chain of hanfu also needs to be improved. Hanfu itself has high requirements for craftsmanship as well as finished products, with a long production cycle and high production costs, coupled with the small volume of hanfu, many factories are not willing to process and produce it, which makes it difficult to reduce the cost of hanfu.
According to Li Yingtao, the current supply chain of China’s clothing industry is mainly concentrated in the four regions of Jiangsu, Zhejiang, southern Fujian, and the Pearl River Delta, but these four supply bases pay limited attention to this non-core category of Hanfu, resulting in hanfu has not yet formed a large-scale, centralized production chain, still highly dependent on individual studios.
He further said that hanfu still needs to go through a long development stage from niche category to branding, “With the rapid expansion of the hanfu market scale, some traditional clothing brands may enter the hanfu market and bring their strong advantages in channels, marketing, supply chain, and design into the hanfu industry, which in turn will elevate the development of the hanfu industry to a whole new level.”
Article source: Financial World Weekly
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