For a long time, Chinese women turned to very specific product codes for their lingerie: super-padded bras with big laces and heavy details only sold by Chinese or Asian traditional lingerie brands like Aimer or Gujin. This made the market quite complicated and almost nonexistent for many international brands. For example, the French brand Princess Tam Tam set up a shop in Shanghai in 2013 and after struggling to seduce Chinese women, the shop closed down rapidly.
With a 20 percent growth every year since 2009 and no signs of slowing down, lingerie has become one of the most dynamic markets in Chinese fashion. The buzz of the upcoming Victoria’s Secret Show in Shanghai in November is a good illustration of the market’s new attractiveness and the rise of women’s fondness for their lingerie products.
Indeed, Chinese young women are experiencing important behavioral changes, with their lingerie consumption patterns evolving quite quickly. The strong cultural duality between the traditional societal codes and the contemporary world has impacted the lingerie market.
What are the four new key feminine attitudes in China, and how do these attitudes pair with new lingerie products for Chinese women?
1. Openness to the World with A Lighter Lingerie
In recent years, globalization, digital connectivity, worldwide travel and the economic rise of Chinese women in society have increased awareness of brands and global trends.
Chinese women have developed different tastes in terms of aesthetics and lingerie shapes. Traditional Chinese brands are not so popular anymore for the younger generation. Instead, they prefer products that are more light and breezy.
Young women, influenced by international brands and engaging on social media platforms like Instagram, look for more refined details, thinner fabrics—they are shunning super-padded bras with big laces and heavy details.
Today, they are more minimalistic, choosing revealing lingerie with less material.
Another trend that is gaining favor with young Chinese is called “free the boobs.” In large cities like Shanghai and Beijing, some free-spirited women want to embrace freedom by not wearing bras at all.
“Lingerie is more than an outfit, it’s a way to express inner desire.”
2. Empowered By Fit Lingerie
Post-80s and -90s Chinese women are more self-sufficient and independent (especially in the first tier cities). They have developed a more empowered relationship with themselves and with their bodies.
This phenomenon is linked to the “Sheng Nu movement,” (the cosmetic brand SKII has explained this reality very well in their buzzing commercial): the pressure felt by post 25-year-old women from their families about being single and unmarried. Young Chinese women today are rejecting this pressure and embracing less traditional paths.
The young generation of Chinese women is indeed looking to be more independent and free in their choices. Lingerie is a good way for them to express themselves, and they are increasing their budgets for their lingerie products. Today, 20- to 35-year-olds are spending around 72 euros per year for their lingerie*. (*study conducted by the Lingerie association of Canton and the lingerie company Mielseno in January 2016)
The “inner desire” is even stronger as women look to take care of themselves and have a healthier body. Together with the evolution of lingerie in China comes the evolution of fitness and health clubs. Being skinny is not in style anymore, rather having a shaped body is more in line with today’s body image trends. Therefore, women will look to wear underwear that increases their sexiness as well as highlights their fit bodies.
“Before, Chinese aesthetic was more towards skinny, but now, healthy and fit body types are more popular. Before they showed cleavage, now we chase after abs and arm muscles.”
3. Well-being With A Comfortable Lingerie
In China, the notion of comfort used to be associated with the traditional lingerie products with padded bras, large wings, and underwire in order to have good maintenance and healthy breasts. But ideas have changed, and now, concepts of health and wellness go with lightness, comfort and premium fabrics with more simple designs that are less compressing on the breast.
In addition to style and trends, young generations of Chinese women continue to have strong expectations of quality and healthy products, especially when it comes to the clothing that will surround their intimate parts.
Comfort and health go together when women choose their lingerie for everyday use. They are looking more for quality in terms of texture with natural fabrics, for example, simple design for better wellness.
The Chinese brand Neiwai has adapted to this trend — the company offers a selection of simple and comfortable lingerie with soft and quality fabrics that are becoming more and more popular among young Chinese women.
4. Emancipated With A Sexy Lingerie
Chinese, compared to Europeans, are much more reserved and less at ease when discussing sensuality and sexuality. As a result, Chinese women have been shy about showing their body shape and revealing their skin, and were less comfortable when wearing and talking about “sexy” lingerie. But the taboos have been loosened for the younger generation, and they tend to discuss this topic in more of a humorous way.
“For mass media, sex is still taboo but more and more liberal thoughts are growing in China.”
The liberation of talk goes hand-in-hand with more Chinese and Asian models walking lingerie shows, such as Victoria’s Secret, or posing for lingerie campaigns. This demonstrates to Chinese women that an international brand could also fit an Asian body type. Moreover, showing strong Chinese women walking down the catwalk gives a big drive to the young generation of Chinese to be more confident and embrace their femininity.
With Oysho also becoming more and more popular in China, the brand has used Chinese models as well as international ones to communicate to their audience and to emphasize the emancipation and liberal thoughts of Chinese women today.
China is experiencing the international trend: The rise of a generation of single and independent women with a different perception of love, relationships and of building a family.
Women start to embrace their feminine power to become sexier, but still like to stay under control.
Although this phenomenon can be observed in large and international cities, it is still minor in China’s smaller cities.
- The relationship of Chinese women and their bodies has changed, and a major switch is happening in terms of lingerie desires from the previous generation.
- Today, Chinese young women are looking to be sexier and more seductive in their lingerie choices.
- Comfort and health are still important criteria when it comes to choosing lingerie, but the product codes are changing, valuing high-quality fabric and more simple shapes.
- Being skinny used to be the physical code considered as pretty in China, but new codes are emerging like a fit body considered as healthy.
- Women are gaining more confidence in their bodies, but the product offerings and communication tools of international brands still have to be carefully chosen to be successful toward the contemporary young Chinese women.
The Chinese Pulse is a creative consulting agency based in Paris, dedicated to decipher trends on the Chinese contemporary market for fashion, beauty, luxury and lifestyle brands.