While most economies are still struggling to recover from the pandemic, the China fashion market — including both luxury and non-luxury segments — is already back to pre-Covid sales levels.
Did you know that the rising incomes in China will contribute to an anticipated increase of $10 trillion in consumption growth between 2021 and 2030?
This shows strong prospects for growth in consumer spending power. Considering that China is the top apparel retail market in the world, we can expect to see a growing expenditure in fashion goods in 2022.
Today, global fashion goods consumption tilts heavily toward China with its $284.3B worth of sales in 2020 outpacing the next four countries combined:
- China: $284.3B
- United States: $126.5B
- United Kingdom: $32.5B
- Japan: $23.9B
- Germany: $22.5B
Moving forward in 2022, China’s dominance will only intensify.
Interestingly, a large amount of these sales are going to be digital and online. In China, digital shopping channels are more embedded in the consumer consciousness and integrated into heavily used social apps like WeChat, Douyin, Taobao and the like. More than half of all sales are expected to take place online by 2023.
Let’s look at the top China Fashion Trends in 2022 and the best China marketing advice that brands can leverage to expand and grow in China.
China’s Fashion Market Trends in 2022
1. Wardrobe Reboot
After focusing on the likes of loungewear and sportswear for nearly two years (during the pandemic), consumers are now starting to reallocate their fashion expenditure to other categories. There’s a pent-up demand for newness as social interactions outside the home rise.
Return-to-work and occasion styles will top consumer shopping lists. Demand for formalwear will see a rise as people return to the workplace and formal occasions find a way back on the social calendars.
Expect to see a decelerating demand in pandemic-resilient categories such as nightwear, activewear and underwear.
Occasionwear demand is also set to rise. Global monthly searches for occasion dresses, such as homecoming, wedding guest, cocktail and formal dresses, were up 200 percent in 2021 already. The upward trend is expected to continue in 2022. (Source)
2. Revenge Shopping
Pent-up demand now manifests as “revenge shopping” in markets as people’s social lives resume post lockdown.
The spikes in spending first emerged in China during so-called “revenge shopping” periods in 2020. When lockdowns end and consumer confidence returns, this behavior is expected to play out in the fashion markets as they recover. There will be an increase in fashion purchases building on momentum established in the latter half of 2021. (Source)
3. Social Shopping
In China, social media has quickly become a preferred way of shopping and interacting with brands. Their social platforms are increasingly augmented with advanced technology and consumers are in sync with social shopping. In fact, social commerce already accounts for more than 13 percent of total e-commerce sales in China.
Super-apps like WeChat offer an array of functions beyond social networking and message services. Now, they support everything from in-app checkouts on social media platforms to sales transactions on live streams, which results in the booming of social commerce.
Social media players like Douyin and Xiaohongshu have also boosted their e-commerce capabilities.
In 2021, sales from social commerce across all sectors in China were forecasted to be over $363 billion, which was up by 35.5 percent as compared to the previous year. This is about 10 times higher than social commerce sales in the US.
Fashion brands are quickly adapting to social commerce formats like livestream channels. For instance, Tommy Hilfiger held a livestream in China that attracted 14 million viewers and sold 1,300 hoodies in two minutes. (Source)
4. Seamless Payments – WeChat Pay and Alipay
Seamless payments are table stakes now. So if fashion brands have any reluctance to surrender control to social media apps, they must surrender it in order to drive more sales conversions through social media.
The focus of the social strategy should be much more than getting reach or building brand awareness. Now, it’s possible to get paying social customers, without moving them away from their online experience on a social media app.
The popularity of such social commerce in China is enabled by seamless payment methods within apps such as WeChat.
Thanks to WeChat, China is seeing huge strides in frictionless payments and shortening of the sales funnel. The time and friction between discovery and purchase has been significantly reduced.
The ability to interact with sales agents on WeChat makes purchase decisions quicker and easier. The importance of mini programmes both on WeChat and other platforms in the Chinese social ecosystem is paving a way to an integrated shopping model in the future that global platforms can take inspiration from.
If fashion brands that get social commerce right in the Chinese market, they can see astonishing growth rates. Revenues at Chinese beauty company Yatsen Holdings Limited multiplied by more than 50 from 2017 to 2020 (reaching over $78 million) when its local “C-beauty” brand Perfect Diary focussed on getting sales via its social direct-to-consumer model on WeChat, making up the majority of revenues. (Source)
5. Gamification in Online Fashion Shopping
The high percentage of coupons using Chinese consumers shows that there is an incentive for brands to gamify their shopping experience. Today, most of the brands using these gamification strategies are fast-fashion companies like Shein. Shein’s strategies include coupon wheels, where shoppers can spin a wheel on the website to get a chance discount. Consumers also earn rewards for multiple log-ins during a week.
Both fast fashion brands and more high-end brands like Rebecca Minkoff are incorporating personalized text messaging in their gamification strategy. This helps in bringing customers to their e-commerce sites and fuels brand loyalty. As the Chinese fashion industries grow more in 2022, these kinds of marketing strategies will become more prevalent. (Source)
6. Collaboration with KOLs and A-list Celebrities
In China, it’s now common for the beauty brands to give products to various key opinion leaders (KOLs) before a launch, allowing them to review and demonstrate the use of the product before it goes on sale. Luxury fashion brands on the other hand prefer to partner with A-list celebrities instead of KOLs.
For instance, beauty brands like Estee Lauder share the early access to their exclusive beauty box with KOLs prior to the launch. These KOLs then post pictures of the brand’s products on social platforms like Weibo and praise it for its quality.
On the other hand, renowned luxury fashion houses like Louis Vuitton and Gucci already have a higher level of cultural capital and less competition. So their drops focus more on creating the hype and going viral instead of convincing potential customers to make direct purchases. They are using photos of pop idols wearing their yet-to-be-released collaboration fashion apparels for promotion and marketing.
China Fast Fashion Insights
Chinese ultra-fast fashion player Shein is consistently introducing more than 6,000 new products per day in limited units. Their designs are informed by customer data and can be turned around in as little as three days. However, fast fashion companies relying on such business models are now facing increased scrutiny for their severe environmental impact and poor labour conditions.
Now, a growing number of consumers want to purchase more investment pieces and versatile items. However, even with this rising awareness of sustainable fashion, inexpensive items and impulse purchases will continue to remain an important part of the wardrobe mix for many in 2022.
With increased opportunities to collect consumer data through technology and the growth in e-commerce spend, fashion brands should track shifts in category sales and pay special attention to how new assortments are performing with the consumers.
Fashion Trends Chinese Consumers Are Loving in 2022
1. Cultural Confidence
The pandemic has brought the focus of Chinese consumers to fashion apparel that is all about Chinese culture. Chinese color, martial arts culture, national culture, architectural culture, folk culture, literary works and silk culture are now trending in fashion.
For instance, Chinese brand Fabric Porn has brought back traditional chinese clothing in hopes of giving China’s youth new reasons to embrace their heritage and take pride in it.
Some of its collections include – T-shirts boasting the image of China’s household comics, hoodies incorporating in-vogue Chinese ad slogans, “Make China Lit Again” caps and traditional Chinese button knots sewn onto denim jackets.
These fashion apparels resonate with Chinese urban millennials who are proud of their country.
2. Genderless Clothing
Chinese consumers are turning to fashion that is free and unrestrained. China Fashion Week brought focus to a diversified trend that was all about breaking the restrictions of gender, fat and thin, and emphasizing inclusiveness and diversified aesthetics.
Fashion brand Private Policy manifests this individual pursuit of fashion freedom though its cutting-edge genderless clothing. The brand also supports LGBTQ rights and helps break Asian stereotypes.
3. Sustainable Fashion
The growing awareness and demand for sustainable fashion in China is evident from Shanghai Fashion Week’s commitment to this cause. There were workshops, forums, and exhibitions highlighting the topic of Sustainability.
Prominent designers like Susan Fang are experimenting with new design materials and styles. For instance, she collects waste bottles and waste textile materials and transforms them into bags and dresses.
Many new sustainable fashion brands have started to gain popularity. For instance, Rio Hilo aims to become a 100 percent recyclable, sustainable, and compostable brand. Today, it functions from a 100-year-old stone house in Yunnan province and provides employment to highly skilled local artisans. They are now happier as they no longer need to live in bigger cities like Shanghai to make a living.
More and more Chinese fashion brands are now taking action on sustainability and making corresponding efforts to create a healthy and green industry ecology. This involves use of fabric like natural cotton and linen, traditional Chinese natural dyeing methods such as plant dyeing, mineral dyeing, and iron rust dyeing.