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Hanfu: when traditional clothes are the new fashion

It sounds peculiar that China, one of the fastest growing countries of the world and responsible of huge technology feats such as 5G, is looking to its tradition in some areas. Even more peculiar is the fact that a constantly evolving sector, such as fashion, is one of these.
As a matter of fact, lately more and more young people are dressing up with traditional Hanfu clothes. Initially, the pioneers of Hanfu were wearing it only in specific situations, for particular occasions, within small groups. They slowly grew more and more confident. Many people are now showing off their Hanfu as an alternative to western-styled clothing.

But what is Hanfu?

Hanfu literally means “Han clothes”. Han is the name for the vast ethnic majority in China. It is also the name of one of the most important dynasties. Han dominated the nation from 2200 to 1800 years ago. Since that period, Hanfu clothes have been evolving through the following dynasties.
For this reason, the category designed as Hanfu is very wide. The clothing style varied with the years as well as due to geographical reasons.

Hanfu clothes for disco, that can shine at night. An idea of the designer Qiaozhi. Source:

The variety offered by Hanfu clothing makes sure that practically anybody can find something for himself or herself. Newer models are springing up every day.

The new market of Hanfu

Hanfu are growing in popularity quite fast. In 2019, according to Tmall, the Hanfu enthusiast tend to purchase two to three outfits per year. The amount of Hanfu enthusiasts is more than 3.5 millions in China. The market is worth more than 4.5 billion RMB, according to iiMedia.
Due to the growth of the market, and the popularity of the product, Hanfu producers are innovating as much as they can. Some of the newest models are shining in the night. Others are perfect for weddings, and there are even pet-sized ones. And since they look so inconvenient for sports, active Hanfu have been designed to sort that out.

Why this “retrofashion” phenomena?

There are many reasons behind the popularity of this clothing, but certainly one of the most interesting is the growing power of China as a country. As a matter of fact, more and more people worldwide are looking at China and trying to understand it, and Chinese take pride of their country and history. And while Chinese schools teach students to learn from others, they also remind them of their heritage, coming from millennia ago.

Will this mean nobody will wear western clothing anymore?

Probably not, but who knows?
After all, western business suits managed to win the modern Chinese alternatives promoted by both Sun Zhong Shan (or Sun Yat Sen) and Mao Zedong, the fathers of the Republic of China and People’s Republic of China, respectively. These clothes, called Zhongshan, were also based on traditional Chinese clothing, but nowadays they have been practically abandoned.

A qipao dress. Source:

On the other side, cheongsam or qipao, which are Chinese women dresses, have been popular enough to be exported outside. And while they are not as common as western clothing, they are far from being a rare sight. Still, the biggest disadvantage for the popularity of these clothes is how slender their lines are – which makes them appealing only for a strict minority of women. Hanfu is pretty much the opposite in this aspect.
It is also important to notice that Hanfu passionates are not wearing them every day, and their purchasing volume per capita shows that clearly.
It is still being more like an alternative way to dress, which can convey their passion and appreciation for them.
Things may still change, though, as China’s political growth may actually bring popularity to Hanfu.

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