Sheryl Shen
Sheryl Shen
7 September 2020 0 Comments

One of the groovy innovations we spotted at the Taobao Maker Festival last month was from Wu Qiuqiao, the Hunan-based cat hanfu designer.

Who is the cat hanfu designer?
Wu Qiuqiao hanfu for cats designer

After graduating from university in 2016, Qiuqiao moved to Beijing to start her career. A couple of hardworking years and endless overtime in her advertising job, she quit and moved back home to Hunan with thoughts of starting her own business, but what? Qiuqiao married her love of her cat and Chinese traditional clothing. Blessed with having a clothing manufacturing factory as the family business, the circumstances drove her to begin creating customized miniature ‘hanfu for cats’ – selling them to cat lovers around the world.

For three months, Qiuqiao drew designs, picked out materials and built prototypes for production. In 2019 she opened a Taobao store and managed to list five clothing items at once, all of which were immediately bought by a single customer. Following the small yet confidence-inspiring debut, she quickly increased the production and expanded her portfolio.

Her Taobao store now has over 25,000 royal fans (frequent buyers who had subscribed to the store for updates) from across the globe. Qiuqiao was recently awarded with the innovation award at the 2020 Taobao Jiyoujia Merchant Conference.

As one of the main featured vendors on the 2020 Taobao Maker Festival tour, Qiuqiao’s act of marrying a prospective market trend and subculture together has been highly praised by the Alibaba CMO Chris Tsung. Her seemingly “out there” initiative is now being regarded as one of the up and coming trends in the China market.

So what is hanfu?
Chinese millennials wearing hand clothing on a night out at hot pot

Hanfu (“汉服” hàn fú) is Chinese traditional-style clothing dating back to the Han dynasty. As more than 90% of the Chinese population are Han (the world’s largest ethnicity), hanfu is also considered symbolic of traditional culture.

At the beginning of the 21st century, the “hanfu movement”(汉服运动)started to surface. As more people started having access to the internet and social platforms in the late 90s, netizens started a movement to ‘bring back hanfu’, even as daily wear. Thanks to government-backed nationalism supporting cultural identity and sense of belonging praised by the younger generation, hanfu is on its way to become one of the top subcultures in China.

According to a report by CBNData and Tmall, hanfu buyers have increased 74.4% YoY to 3.6 million in 2019, generating  ¥2 billion ($290 million) in sales on Taobao and related platforms. Some active followers of the hanfu culture say they spend more than ¥1,000 ($146) a month on hanfu related products alone, making hanfu more than just a fast-growing subculture, but a commercially-beneficial section.

Why pets?
Pets were not just the heroes of quarantine proving unconditional love, companionship and source of comfort much needed during a tough time, pets in general are now a major part of Chinese people’s lives. In 2018, 100 million Chinese families already had pets. In 2019, many pet fashion accessories and beauty product categories saw triple-digital growth on Tmall Global in the second half of year, with premium imported pet food growing 400% year-on-year in 2020 January.

This trend isn’t slowing down post-COVID – just take a look at the stats from the 2020 Pet Fair Asian took place in Shanghai two weeks ago: more than 2000 exhibitors and 80,000 professional buyers attended the fair and is the largest exhibition for pet supplies globally. The $223.1 billion pet care market in 2019 is expected to grow to $327.7 billion by 2026, making Chinese pet owners a new breed of power purchasers.

Although dog owners are also eager to buy some hanfu for their furry friends, Qiuqiao’s store mainly targets cats. Not just because she is a hopeless cat lover, but also the fact that she thought cats’ smaller body size would be perfect for adorable mini hanfu outfits (or dogs who are the size of cats).

What Qiuqiao did not anticipate was that the pet industry would experience another bloom during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to CBNData, the sales for cat-related products rose 37% in the year ended June 30, 2020 – double the growth rate of dog-related products. It suggests that cats are getting more popular as a pet choice which may be a key contributor to Qiuqiao’s major success.

Takeaways

The rapidly-evolving China market has changed more than ever in the post-COVID new norm. It is essential for brands and business owners to track it carefully and act swiftly along with the market trends and emerging subcultures in order to stay relevant. As Alibaba CMO Chris Tsung stated, cross-industry collaborations are emerging quickly and are more innovative than ever. Brands should to consider these elements and market phenomena when planning their NPD plans, marketing campaigns and even messaging to stay relevant.

If you are interested in learning more about the current China market trends or emerging subcultures, or if you are searching for marketing inspiration, we at China Skinny are happy to help! Contact us today for more!