Traditional culture drives rural vitalization

Quality traditional Chinese costumes are gaining popularity at home and abroad, triggering increased orders on e-commerce platforms.


Children's clothing in the hanfu style is promoted at a livestreaming session in Caoxian county, Shandong province, last month. PHOTO: XINHUA/ CHINA DAILY

August 18, 2023

BEIJING – Orders for time-honored costumes surge on e-commerce platforms

Quality traditional Chinese costumes are gaining popularity at home and abroad, triggering increased orders on e-commerce platforms.

One town benefiting from this boom is Daiji in Caoxian county, Shandong province, where customers are increasingly looking to buy hanfu — time-honored Chinese clothing.

Li Tao, Party secretary of Daiji, said the orders placed online have significantly driven growth of the town’s clothing industry.

Visitors taking a stroll along the main road in Daiji come across a line of shops involved in the garment business, ranging from cloth production and pattern printing to costume outlets. Workers can be seen packaging orders for delivery.

At the end of last month at an e-commerce industrial park in the town, a young woman used a livestreaming platform to promote a hanfu outfit bearing a set of yunjian, a type of popular clothing decoration made in the style of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

Zheng Tao, director of Qianwei Hantang Apparel Co, which is situated in the industrial park, said, “These exquisite items attract a great deal of attention from buyers, and they sell like hot cakes.”

During the past six weeks, the company has sold more than 7,000 of the hanfu outfits promoted by Zheng.

“We have seen substantial growth in hanfu sales during the first half of this year,” Zheng said. “In the past two months alone, these sales have reached 10 million yuan ($1.37 million), a tenfold rise year-on-year.”

Zheng is not the only one enjoying the sales boom. In the first half of this year, total sales of hanfu in the town sold via e-commerce platforms reached 2.5 billion yuan, Li, the local Party secretary, said.

“Many hanfu producers in the town are working overtime to meet their orders,” Li added.

Quality transformation

Performance costumes have been made in Daiji for more than three decades. In 2009, with e-commerce platforms rising in popularity, the town’s performance costume industry grew rapidly, with almost every household opening an online store.

Locals said that when village girls in Daiji got married, their parents traditionally bought gold and silver jewelry for their dowries. But now, these gold and silver items have made way for online stores.

Promoted by e-commerce platforms, sales of performance costumes in Caoxian, which were mainly produced in Daiji, exceeded 6 billion yuan in 2019, accounting for 70 percent of the sales of such costumes purchased on these platforms.

The performance costume business has since thrived. There are now 2,186 such enterprises in the county, employing more than 100,000 people out of a population of around 1.37 million.

These market players have developed a complete industrial chain covering research and development, design and production, copyright protection, cutting and printing, embroidery printing, accessories, exhibitions, network marketing, logistics, and after-sales service.

However, in 2020, many costumes piled up in factories when performances were canceled due to COVID-19 pandemic prevention and control measures, forcing numerous makers of such outfits to produce hanfu.

Those running hanfu businesses in Daiji focused on affordable clothing, with prices ranging from 100 yuan to 500 yuan.

Using the long-term development of the e-commerce industry and advanced industrial chain for costumes, business owners in Daiji were quick to introduce a batch of affordable hanfu outfits priced at about 100 yuan on major e-commerce platforms. The clothing not only attracted many young people, but also brought in numerous orders from across the country.

Meng Xiaoxia, director of the Caoxian original design center for hanfu in Daiji, said, “The complete chain of the hanfu industry enables us to reduce costs, so that the hanfu produced in our town is affordable.”

Brand building

Hanfu producers in Daiji are focusing on original designs in an attempt to earn an increased market share.

At Meng’s center, horse-face skirts made from different materials featuring embroidered designs are selling well. These colorful pleated skirts, which originated in the Song Dynasty (960-1279), were worn by celebrities and fashion icons.

“We have seen impressive growth in sales of horse-face skirts during the first half of this year,” said Meng, who studied for a bachelor’s degree of arts.

Showing the garments to visitors, Meng said, “For example, this particular set of horse-face skirts is designed for a family, and we added an embroidered peony to the skirts to make them more elegant.” She added that the set is selling well, both online and offline.

Meng feels that one of the most important ways for the hanfu industry in Caoxian to develop is by studying and understanding the characteristics of clothing from ancient Chinese dynasties.

“We need to combine the characteristics of ancient clothing with modern people’s aesthetics and dress habits to integrate hanfu into their daily lives,” she said.

Meng hopes that more talent will join the nation’s hanfu industry in clothing design, product operation, technology application and management.

Li, the Party secretary, said more young people are returning to Daiji to seek opportunities in the hanfu industry, helping to build such brands with their entrepreneurial spirit and dedication to original design.

More than 7,000 young people, including over 700 university students, have returned to the town to start businesses, Li added.

Zheng, the Qianwei Hantang manager, who is 36, returned to Daiji, his hometown, last year to run his hanfu business.

“We conducted research on hanfu among college students, finding that eight out of every 10 students like hanfu, which represents big market potential,” Zheng said.

He decided to return to run the business, as he knows that the complete costume industry chain in Caoxian will ensure easy access to the hanfu industry.

“What I need to do is create more original designs and make our brand known by more people,” said Zheng, whose company now has five designers.

“They used to design ancient costumes for film actresses,” he said, adding that these designers are familiar with history and culture, which will help them come up with good ideas for hanfu.

Another young entrepreneur, Yang Wei, manager of Caoxian Yunmu Apparel Co, has achieved impressive online sales of 5 million to 6 million yuan in just a few months through livestreaming.

Yang expects to expand his brand to national and global markets.

With young people’s efforts to create original designs and build brands, Daiji has rapidly entered the mid- and high-end hanfu market, claiming 30 percent of the hanfu sold via online platforms, data from the town government show.

There are plans to establish a hanfu research institution in Daiji to ensure that the industry in Caoxian achieves high-quality development.

Hanfu businesses in the town are also seeking to enter more overseas markets.

Li said, “As more and more foreigners and Chinese living overseas like hanfu, we are developing cross-border e-commerce platforms to expand our overseas markets.”

In addition to staging promotions on e-commerce platforms, representatives from Daiji attend Chinese costume shows in countries such as Italy to promote the culture of traditional Chinese clothing.

“We will make more effort to develop the hanfu industry, which is a good way to vitalize our town and enrich residents’ lives,” Li added.

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