Chinese skirt Mamianqun ignites fashion craze among young people, fueling new consumption momentum
Published: Feb 21, 2024 09:00 PM
Tourists dressed in hanfu take selfies at the Luoyang City National Heritage Park in Luoyang, Central China's Henan Province, on February 15, 2024. Photo: VCG

Tourists dressed in hanfu take selfies at the Luoyang City National Heritage Park in Luoyang, Central China's Henan Province, on February 15, 2024. Photo: VCG

Wearing new clothes is a traditional Chinese custom for celebrating the Lunar New Year. During the just-ended Spring Festival holidays, the traditional skirt mamianqun, literally meaning "horse-face skirt," has become a favorite chic of the younger generation as the "New Year gala attire."

And, Chinese people wearing traditional clothing can be almost seen everywhere during the 8-day break, reflecting not only the revival of China's unparalleled rich culture but also serving as a strong new driver for retail spending, market analysts said on Wednesday.

"Before the Spring Festival, our company sold approximately 16,000 horse-face skirts, with the red ones featuring dragon and phoenix patterns being particularly popular among Generation Z. This figure is three to four times higher than in 2023," Hu Chunqing, head of Chenfei Clothing Co in Caoxian County, East China's Shandong Province, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

The sales surge is mainly attributed to higher consumer awareness of the traditional attires and smoother logistics enabled by e-commerce, as compared to the previous years, Hu said.

Culture revival

Mamianqun is one of the main representative styles of hanfu - the traditional outfit cladded by ethnic-majority Han people in China.

After being dormant for hundreds, if not thousands, of years, these ancient yet elegant garments have surged back into fashion in recent years, particularly among the younger generation, who are generally believed as fashion conscious. And this is just one manifestation of the revival of traditional Chinese culture.

Mamianqun combines both classical and modern simplicity, catering to the mainstream fashion demands of today's youth. With businesses introducing increasingly appealing and sophisticated styles, more and more people are choosing this type of hanfu as their daily costumes, especially during traditional festivals like the Spring Festival, market analysts said.

In recent years, Chinese consumers' sense of identification and pride with traditional culture has been growing, leading them to prefer products with cultural heritage and significance. This trend reflects not just a choice in daily consumption but also an expression of a lifestyle attitude, Zhang Yi, CEO of iiMedia Research Institute, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

Gong Yancheng, a professor from the Beijing Institute of Fashion Technology, agreed that Generation Z have grown up in an era where China's international influence is on the rise, and the younger people have rising self-esteem in traditional culture.

"Clothing is closely linked to cultural identity and confidence. The young people are proud of the country's rich culture, and they are more willing to put on an attire to express their collective identity as being Chinese," Gong told the Global Times on Tuesday.

New sales driver

Caoxian County is one of China's hanfu manufacturing bases with annual hanfu sales exceeding 7 billion yuan ($974 million). This year, sales of Lunar New Year greeting outfits, led by mamianqun, have already surpassed 300 million yuan in the county, the People's Daily reported on Sunday.

"When designing and developing our products, our company not only draws resources from traditional culture but also observes current market trends, such as seasonal popular colors, to maximize the chances of creating best-selling costumes," Hu said.

"In the end, it's all about production capacity," Hu said, noting that the supply chain is a key competitive advantage for mamianqun and other hanfu businesses in Caoxian county. Now local businessmen have increasingly shifted to live-streaming e-commerce to promote and sell their products.

The substantial scale of clothing production there, coupled with the improving quality of Caoxian's hanfu industry, including the original design capabilities of producers, production skills, and manufacturing processes, are all steadily increasing, Hu said. "To establish the regional brand of Caoxian hanfu, efforts must also be made in high-end development and brand building."

"Traditional culture has now become a new driving force for consumption. Its uniqueness, scarcity, and historical significance make it even more appealing to consumers' pursuit of quality and aesthetics," Zhang said, adding it has been driving the growth of related industries.

According to data from Chinese e-commerce giant, the transaction volume of the hanfu category on the platform in January increased by 300 percent compared with the previous year, with mamianqun being the most popular category.

The skyrocketing popularity of mamianqun has also brought new opportunities to Xucun town in East China's Zhejiang Province, a traditional textile producer that supplies fabrics for hanfu.

Xucun now has over 100 enterprises producing fabric used for the traditional costumes, with a daily output exceeding 30,000 meters, the People's Daily reported.

Hanfu is not only leading a new fashion trend in China but is also becoming increasingly popular in overseas market.

"Expanding internationally is also a major focus [for our company], with efforts already underway," Hu said, adding that hanfu products have been mainly exported to Southeast Asia, North America, as well as European countries like Italy, France, and Spain. Mamianqun is a key product category for the exports, although more efforts are needed.

"With the continuous progress of globalization and the spread of Chinese culture, an increasing number of foreign consumers are developing a strong interest in Chinese culture. Their demand for Chinese clothing, accessories, and other related products is growing," Zhang said.

Zhang expressed optimism about the prospects for domestic consumption recovery this year, stating that with faster economic recovery, traditional Chinese cultural products, including hanfu, will unleash their potential and achieve better results in production and sales.