In recent years, there has been a remarkable surge in the popularity of high-quality traditional Chinese costumes, both domestically and internationally. This trend has spurred a surge in orders on various e-commerce platforms, leading to substantial growth in the clothing industry. One of the towns experiencing a significant boom in this regard is Daiji, located in Caoxian county, Shandong province. The town’s increasing production of hanfu, a cherished form of traditional Chinese attire, has been a driving force behind this trend.
Online orders fueling growth
Daiji’s transformation owes much to the upswing in online orders for traditional Chinese clothing. Li Tao, the Party secretary of Daiji, noted that the surge in online orders has played a pivotal role in the town’s clothing industry’s robust growth. As one walks along the main road in Daiji, they encounter a series of shops dedicated to the garment business. These establishments range from cloth production and pattern printing to costume outlets, with workers visibly occupied packaging orders for delivery.
Hanfu’s exquisite allure
A pivotal example of this trend is seen at the e-commerce industrial park in Daiji. Here, a young woman leveraged a livestreaming platform to showcase a hanfu outfit adorned with yunjian, a popular clothing decoration reminiscent of the Ming Dynasty’s style (1368-1644). Zheng Tao, the director of Qianwei Hantang Apparel Co., situated within the industrial park, highlighted the exceptional appeal of these exquisite items. He expressed that the intricate designs command significant attention from buyers and experience remarkable sales.
Staggering growth in sales
The past few weeks have borne witness to Qianwei Hantang Apparel Co.’s remarkable success, having sold over 7,000 promoted hanfu outfits. Zheng expressed a tenfold year-on-year rise, with hanfu sales reaching a staggering 10 million yuan ($1.37 million) in just two months. However, this growth is not unique to a single enterprise. In the initial half of the year, the total sales of hanfu through e-commerce platforms in the town have surpassed 2.5 billion yuan, an impressive statistic according to Li, the local Party secretary. Li noted that numerous hanfu producers are putting in extra effort to meet the surge in orders.
Evolution and adaptation
Daiji’s journey into the realm of traditional Chinese costume production has evolved over several decades, initially centered on performance costumes. The advent of e-commerce platforms in 2009 catalyzed a swift expansion of the town’s performance costume industry, with virtually every household establishing an online store. This transformation displaced the conventional practice of gifting gold and silver jewelry during marriage, paving the way for the rise of online stores.
E-commerce-driven sales of performance costumes in Caoxian, primarily originating from Daiji, surpassed 6 billion yuan in 2019. This represented a remarkable 70 percent of performance costume sales across these platforms. Over time, the performance costume sector thrived, giving rise to 2,186 enterprises within the county, collectively providing employment to more than 100,000 individuals.
The Hanfu Revolution
The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 disrupted traditional performance costume production, leading to a shift toward hanfu production. Capitalizing on the well-developed e-commerce infrastructure and an advanced costume industrial chain, Daiji swiftly introduced a range of affordable hanfu outfits, garnering popularity among young consumers. The prices of these hanfu outfits ranged from 100 yuan to 500 yuan, making them accessible to a broader audience.
This strategy effectively tapped into the potential market, attracting not only young individuals but also significant orders from various parts of the country. Meng Xiaoxia, director of the Caoxian original design center for hanfu in Daiji, attributed the affordability of the clothing to the town’s well-structured hanfu industry chain, which enables cost reduction.
A focus on originality and brand building
Daiji’s hanfu producers have taken an innovative approach by emphasizing original designs to capture a larger market share. For instance, the Caoxian original design center under Meng’s leadership has seen notable success with horse-face skirts that combine diverse materials with embroidered designs. Originating from the Song Dynasty (960-1279), these pleated skirts were once worn by prominent figures.
Meng has experienced significant growth in sales of horse-face skirts, driven by the incorporation of elegant embroidered elements. This successful blend of historical clothing characteristics with modern aesthetics underscores the pivotal role of understanding ancient clothing to make hanfu relevant in contemporary life.
Daiji’s youth are contributing significantly to this resurgence, with more young individuals returning to engage in the hanfu industry. With a focus on originality and entrepreneurial spirit, these newcomers are shaping Daiji’s presence in the mid- to high-end hanfu market, accounting for a substantial portion of online platform sales.
As the popularity of hanfu extends beyond China’s borders, Daiji is looking to tap into overseas markets. Recognizing the appeal of hanfu among both foreigners and overseas Chinese, the town is leveraging cross-border e-commerce platforms to facilitate international expansion. Beyond online promotions, representatives from Daiji are participating in Chinese costume shows in various countries, including Italy, to introduce the cultural significance of traditional Chinese clothing.
The collective efforts of young entrepreneurs, original designers, and brand builders have propelled Daiji’s hanfu industry onto the global stage. With aspirations of establishing a hanfu research institution and diversifying further into international markets, Daiji’s commitment to invigorating the town’s economy and enriching its residents’ lives is resolute.