Thursday, September 6, 2018

Chinese women redefine sexy – and create a booming market at home for feel-good bras

Chinese women are increasingly saying goodbye to push-up bras – and reshaping one of the world’s most important lingerie markets.

Feeling good is in. And feeling sexy is no longer equated with cleavage.

The change in mindset, catching up to a trend already seen in fashion-setting western markets, is creating opportunities in China, with a rush of domestic start-ups targeting women who prefer bras that are softer, wireless, seamless and comfortable. Global brands are also taking note.

“Younger generations are the driving force of this market,” Pascal Martin, a partner at OC&C Strategy Consultants, said about China. “The insatiable curiosity of younger women for global trends and brands, combined with their strong consumption power, makes them very attractive customer targets for lingerie brands.”

The overall intimate-wear market in China is expected to reach US$64.69 billion by the end of 2022, up from about US$43.42 billion in 2017, according to Frost & Sullivan. Tier-1 cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen serve as the main drivers for sales of intimate wear, accounting for more than 30 per cent of total sales in the country.

Sales of wireless bras – part of “athleisure” fashion – have shot up 70 per cent in the past year in China, according to a report by CBNData and Tmall, the humongous B2C online retailer owned by Alibaba Group, which also owns the South China Morning Post.

“Comfort and fabric are very important to me,” said Peggy Marlene Lim, an Indonesian clothes designer living in Hong Kong, who says she has moved away from underwire bras.

“Even my teenage daughter is following me now. She likes bralette, because she found those coming with laces very appealing. They look more natural than wire bras, too.”

Low market concentration, low barriers to entry and increasing living standards of Chinese consumers are providing a golden ticket for new players in the market.

“The demand for athleisure bras will continue to increase in China and will become one of the trending items in the market,” said Neil Wang, Frost & Sullivan’s Greater China president.

Chinese cotton lingerie brand Neiwai is the sole domestic start-up to be one of the top 10 underwear sellers on Tmall, alongside big global players like Victoria’s Secret and Germany-founded Triumph.

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