The untold story behind the Hanfu horse-face skirt's breakthrough

The untold story behind the Hanfu horse-face skirt's breakthrough

The untold story behind the Hanfu horse-face skirt

During the Spring Festival this year, the horse-faced skirt became a hot-selling "New Year's shirt", and the topic #Caoxian sold 300 million horse-faced skirts and is still in short supply# became a hot search topic.

Red Star News reporters found that as early as 2021, Caoxian County, Shandong Province, became a hot topic of public opinion due to keywords such as "performance costumes, Hanfu, Taobao Village". Before that, Caoxian coffins became very popular because they were exported abroad.

Why was Caoxian given "vast wealth"? Under the Internet tide, why can Caoxian County always seize the opportunity?

Zhang Longfei, director of the Cao County E-commerce Service Center, told the Red Star News reporter that it was not an absolute coincidence that Cao County was able to seize the horse-faced skirt business opportunity during the Chinese New Year. The local situation had been predicted and consciously prepared for more than a year. It was put into full production years ago. Thanks to deliberate promotion, sales of horse-faced skirts have surged last year. Public data shows that during the "Double Eleven" promotion period in 2023, from the start of pre-sales to the end of "Double Eleven", Caoxian County sold more than 730,000 horse-faced skirts on the Taobao platform alone, enough to cover 105 footballs. field.

The untold story behind the Hanfu horse-face skirt

At the "National Style Hanfu Show", Hanfu such as horse-faced skirts on display in Caoxian County. Photo provided by the interviewee

How popular is Caoxian horse-faced skirt?

The horse-faced skirt is a type of Hanfu that originally originated in the Song Dynasty and further developed and became popular in the Ming and Qing Dynasties. In terms of style design, the horse-faced skirt is composed of four front and rear skirt doors, which overlap each other and are pleated on the sides.The waist is tied with a rope or button.

After continuous improvement of ancient costumes, market demand has experienced explosive growth in the past two years.

Data shows that since January this year, horse-faced skirts have become the most popular item among Hanfu products on multiple e-commerce platforms. data shows that the platform’s Hanfu category sales increased by 300% year-on-year in January this year, with horse-faced skirts being the most popular category.

The booming market has brought vitality and pressure to horse-faced skirt manufacturing companies. “Supply exceeds demand” is a common comment made by many horse-faced skirt manufacturers. Especially in Cao County, Heze, Shandong, one of my country's Hanfu production and sales bases, the pressure brought by this surprise is even more obvious.

"It can be said that the past two years have been the peak sales season for horse-faced skirts, and the company's production capacity continues to fail to keep up with the explosive growth of market demand." Yao Chixing, general manager of Luo Ruyan Original Hanfu Company in Caoxian County, Shandong, which mainly sells e-commerce, told Red Star News reporter said that the clothing company run by her and her lover Li Zilei ushered in a sales peak during the Spring Festival this year.

In order to meet the large number of orders, Yao Chixing and his wife had to cancel the Spring Festival holiday for their employees. However, even if the company works overtime during the Spring Festival, the company's production capacity is still unable to meet the surge in market demand.

Yao Chixing explained to the Red Star News reporter that it takes 4.5 meters to 6 meters of fabric to make a horse-faced skirt. Due to the complicated process of making horse-faced skirts, even if the machine runs 24 hours a day, it can only weave about 80 meters of cloth at most every day. On average, a machine can weave up to 20 horse-faced skirts a day.

"Our current live broadcast account has an average daily online sales of horse-faced skirts of about 100,000 yuan, and daily offline sales of tens of thousands of yuan. But it is not that we can only sell so much, but to a certain extent. I don’t dare to sell it anymore because I really can’t make it and the output cannot meet the demand of consumers,” Yao Chixing said.

It’s not just the companies run by Yao Chixing and his wife that have experienced a surge in sales of horse-faced skirts. Public reports show that during the 2024 Caoxian Spring Festival, the sales of Year of the Dragon New Year greeting clothes, which are mainly horse-faced skirts, have exceeded 300 million yuan.

Why is Caoxian horse-faced skirt so popular?

How did the horse-face skirt become so popular? In collective memory, it originated from the "Dior Incident" in July 2022. At that time, the internationally renowned fashion brand Dior released a mid-length skirt priced at 29,000 yuan, claiming that it was a "new" fashion item "using the iconic Dior silhouette". However, Chinese netizens discovered that the skirt was actually almost the same as the traditional Chinese dress "horse-faced skirt", and the incident quickly aroused heated discussion.

Perhaps the initial logic of horse-faced skirts becoming popular in the domestic market was accidental, but it is not an accident that Caoxian horse-faced skirts can reach the peak of sales.

"From the traditional business of photo studio sets to the e-commerce sales of performance clothes in 2009, how could the owners of clothing companies who have been honing their skills for more than 10 years not see the business opportunities of horse-faced skirts?" said Zhang Long.In Fei's view, Caoxian County's sudden rise in the horse-faced skirt market is inseparable from the practitioners' forward-looking market predictions.

Yao Chixing and his wife are a good example. After the "Dior Incident", their company was the first to respond and began to officially produce horse-faced skirts.

It is understood that Yao Chixing and her husband Li Zilei started their e-commerce business in Caoxian County in 2014. Now, 10 years later, the couple's business has realized group operations. Li Zilei, who returned from studying in Japan, made a quick decision after the "Dior incident" and put the horse skirt into production at his factory in early 2023.

"At the beginning of last year, the average daily volume of the horse-faced skirts we produced reached more than 2,000 pieces." The sales data proves the correctness of Li Zilei's decision.

In Zhang Longfei's view, one of the key factors for the success of horse-faced skirts and even all Hanfu produced in Caoxian County is the obvious price advantage.

According to him, the Hanfu industry in Cao County is mainly concentrated in Daji Town, Ancailou Town and Yandianlou Town. In these places, almost all aspects of a skirt's design, production, embroidery, printing, cutting, and sales can be completed within 5 kilometers. This means faster throughput and lower cost of sales.

Zhang Longfei explained that because the industrial chain is complete, after the company completes the purchase of cloth raw materials from other places, it is directly sent to the garment-making machines in Caoxian County without adding any links in the process. After the garments are finished, Caoxian also has its own warehouse, which reduces the company's additional warehousing costs.

The updating of machinery and equipment, as well as the low labor costs in the county and low rents for factories and shops, have also invisibly reduced the production costs of Hanfu in Caoxian County. "For example, in the embroidery process of skirts, the cost will increase by 2 to 3 yuan for every 10,000 machine embroidery needles in other places; but in Caoxian, the cost is only 6 to 8 cents for every 10,000 machine embroidery needles."

Zhang Longfei told Red Star News that because of the low cost, even if the sales price is not high, the company's profit from each horse-faced skirt can reach about 30%. Good quality and low price are the key to Caoxian horse-faced skirts and even Hanfu reaching their peak.

What else has Caoxian done?

There are many business owners in Cao County such as Yao Chixing and his wife who accurately predict the market. It does not just rely on the business experience of the operator. As the director of the e-commerce service center, Zhang Longfei has been busy with one thing in the past two years: helping enterprises organize bureaus and allowing more think tanks to contribute wisdom to corporate decision-making.

"Cao County has formed cooperation with different majors in many universities. From experts and scholars to college students, they have become Caoxian Think Tank. Everyone sits together, whether they are practical entrepreneurs or academic teachers and students, and soon It is predicted that the sales of horse-faced skirts will surge in 2023."

After leading companies accurately predicted the market, Caoxian County's comprehensive market layout quietly began. In Zhang Longfei’s words, in order to “get a share” of the horse-faced skirt market, Caoxian County has consciously targetedIt took a full year to prepare.

According to Zhang Longfei's recollection, in August last year, he led several leading Hanfu manufacturing business owners in Cao County to Shanghai to participate in the "Shanghai Textile Enterprise Clothing Equipment Exhibition" in order to learn about new technologies and equipment for the production of horse-faced skirts. Then the group moved to Zhejiang, which is the raw material supply base for Hanfu, to learn from the leading experience in the production of horse-faced skirts and to see the mature production chain and advanced technical level.

After the introduction of technological innovations in equipment, Caoxian County began to build a new round of momentum for horse-faced skirts. Zhang Longfei told Red Star News that from last year's "Double Eleven" to "Double Twelve", Caoxian County held the first Hanfu Culture Festival in 2023 in one month, with various Hanfu-themed forums, seminars, and releases. The meeting was also held in Caoxian County. Horse-faced skirts of various styles were unveiled, and social enthusiasm followed.

The untold story behind the Hanfu horse-face skirt

Caoxian’s first Hanfu Culture Festival in 2023 - Caoxian’s original Hanfu new product release show. Photo provided by the interviewee

Thanks to deliberate promotion, sales of horse-faced skirts in Caoxian County surged last year. Public data shows that during the "Double Eleven" promotion period in 2023, from the start of pre-sales to the end of "Double Eleven", Caoxian County sold more than 730,000 horse-faced skirts on the Taobao platform alone, enough to cover 105 footballs. field.

How can Caoxian seize the wealth opportunity?

Caoxian is not just attracting attention recently. As early as 2021, Caoxian County has become a hot topic in public opinion due to keywords such as "performance costumes, Hanfu, Taobao Village". Previously, Caoxian County's coffins were exported abroad and sold well in Japan, making Caoxian County once the most popular among netizens after Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen. China’s “Fifth City”.

Official data shows that Cao County's GDP will reach 58.3 billion yuan in 2023, ranking first in Heze City. Compared with the total local GDP of 25.45 billion yuan in 2013, the county's GDP has doubled in 10 years.

Once upon a time, the economic level of Caoxian County was not satisfactory. According to previous media reports, Cao County used to be a well-known labor exporting county and poor county in Shandong. In 2005 alone, Cao County exported 200,000 rural laborers, and the average monthly labor income per person was less than 800 yuan.

In Zhang Longfei’s memory, 202009 was a turning year for Cao County’s economic development. That year, an electrician named Ren Qingsheng rode his bicycle to various parts of the country to do sales work. His wife accidentally discovered that a friend who opened an online store selling beef from other places was making considerable profits. So in an era when there were almost no computers in rural areas, Ren Qingsheng borrowed 1,400 yuan to buy a computer and became the first person in the village to open an online store.

According to previous reports by Red Star News, Ren Qingsheng’s online store business project is to sell photo studio clothing produced by small workshops in the village through the online store. Soon he got a big customer. A buyer from Guangdong ordered 36 sets of studio clothing at one time. Ren Qingsheng made nearly 7,000 yuan in the store in the first year of opening. Compared with the income of less than 3,000 yuan a year from farming, this money is a good return for Ren Qingsheng.

The concept of making money by opening an online store has been accepted by more people in Caoxian County through Ren Qingsheng's practice. A year later, at the end of 2010, Dinglou Village had 14 stores selling performance clothes online just like Ren Qingsheng.

"One characteristic of the people in Caoxian County is that they are good at imitating and learning, and they are smart and united. Those who succeeded in the early stage will bring new entrants to work together, and everyone helps each other, forming a cluster development." Zhang Longfei told the Red Star News reporter, Ren Qingsheng's success ignited the desire to open an online store in Caoxian County. Caoxian County's performance clothing company's "nationally best" clothing production base also brewed Caoxian County's future overtaking in the field of Hanfu.

The idea of ​​​​making money through online stores has unlocked the wealth code for Caoxian County's economic growth. This county with a population of less than 2 million has quietly emerged in more than 10 years. Today, Caoxian County has become the second largest Taobao village cluster in China after Yiwu, Zhejiang. There are 2,282 Hanfu manufacturing companies in the county, including horse-faced skirts, and 13,989 online stores. There are nearly 100,000 Hanfu practitioners in the county.

In Zhang Longfei’s view, the reason why Caoxian County’s e-commerce companies have remained strong during more than 10 years of development is because Caoxian County’s good business environment provides guarantee for the execution of business operators: “Many things can be done as soon as they are told. This is also The reason why we were able to grasp the trend of Hanfu sales at the beginning of the prosperity of ancient costumes and now form a Hanfu industry cluster."

When business operators in Caoxian County discovered that Hanfu was popular among young people, they quickly decided to promote Hanfu to a wider market. They continued to use movies and TV series to build momentum for Hanfu. Last year, they worked together with the local government to launch "Hanfu+" "Cultural Tourism" concept. For a time, the Hanfu craze swept the country.

The success of Cao County's e-commerce business has led to the prosperity of local people. One house and one car for each household have almost become standard equipment. Economic development has brought together talents. More and more highly educated talents are returning to Cao County, and there are also outsiders integrating into Cao County through marriage.

"Young people have returned, industrial chains have been formed, and people have found ways to get rich. This is probably the essence of rural revitalization," Zhang Longfei said.