What Happened: Traditional sun protection gear like sunblock, umbrellas, and hats have long been popular in China, where the beauty standard leans toward fair skin. Now, new market offerings of fashion-conscious apparel — think light yet impenetrable jackets, dresses, sleeves, masks, and wide-brimmed visors — are taking over.
Like any other activity and lifestyle trend, local Gen Zers and Millennials have taken to social platforms to share their outfits, with the hashtag for “sun protection clothing” (#防晒衣) gaining over 102 million Xiaohongshu views and over 96 million Weibo mentions.
The Jing Take: Given the mainland’s scorching heat wave and increased enthusiasm for outdoor activities, consumer demand for sun protection gear is fiercer than ever. This is especially true for young folk, with their pursuit of fair skin and anti-aging beauty habits. Though previous versions of sun-shielding accompaniments appeared drastic or absurd — for example, the viral “face-kini” sometimes seen on middle-aged women at the beach — this generation won’t settle for just any old design when it comes to warding off harmful UV rays.
Modern-day “hard sun protection” (referring to clothing and accessories as opposed to sunblocks and lotions) is much more palatable to the fashion-forward, often featuring high-quality fabrics, innovative technology design, and a range of pastel shades.
Domestic players like Ohsunny and Bananaunder have long been in the sun-protection game, but have recently begun pivoting towards clothing. And their diversified and “refashioned” products are certainly yielding bright results. Bananaunder’s revenue for 2021 reached over $375 million (2.4 billion RMB) and the Sequoia China-backed group recently filed to list on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange; OhSunny saw a three-fold increase in sales by the end of the same year.
Pale-skinned beauty standards — and the means young demographics take to maintain them — are unlikely to change in China, which might be a boon for local names. Companies could start to incorporate UV protection into their products: see, for instance, domestic lingerie brand Banaian’s recent campaign which featured the actor Wang Yibo in a sun-coat and hat. If labels can make this work for them, then the future looks bright.
The Jing Take reports on a piece of the leading news and presents our editorial team’s analysis of the key implications for the luxury industry. In the recurring column, we analyze everything from product drops and mergers to heated debate sprouting on Chinese social media.