Exploring the Capital of Hanfu Horse-Face Skirts in China

Exploring the Capital of Hanfu Horse-Face Skirts in China

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Caoxian horse-faced skirt

□ Chutian Metropolis Daily Jimu News reporter Shen Wai Li Ying Photography: Chutian Metropolis Daily Jimu News reporter Li Ying

Caoxian has two completely different looks.

A look is “engraved” on the Internet. In 2021, this county in southwestern Shandong with a population of 1.75 million became popular because of an Internet celebrity calling Mai. In the carnival-like jokes made by netizens about "Bei, Shanghai, Guangcao", Caoxian is described as a cyber high-tech city with high-rise buildings and spaceships. It is a "universe" where even two apartments in Shanghai cannot be exchanged for "a bed in the outer ring". center".

The other is the real Caoxian County. This county, part of Heze City, Shandong Province, is famous for its large population. It only takes half an hour to take the urban rail from Heze City to Caoxian County. Caoxian County has sharp-edged streets and buildings. There are few trees on both sides of the streets. Except for newly developed residential buildings, there are almost no high-rise buildings. Because it is close to Henan Province, Henan braised noodles and other restaurants can be seen everywhere on the streets. The locals' accent is also "Cao Pu" mixed with the Henan accent. In early spring and March, this place, like many counties located in the northern plains, revealed some boring and ordinary things.

However, this “ordinary” county once again attracted attention during the Spring Festival this year. This time it is not because of "playing tricks", but because of its characteristic industry-the production and sales of horse-faced skirts that have become popular on the Internet. Data from the Cao County E-commerce Service Center shows that during the Spring Festival, the county’s sales of New Year’s Eve clothing, mainly horse-faced skirts, exceeded 300 million yuan.

It is no accident that Caoxian County became popular again. From performance costumes, to Hanfu, to horse-faced skirts, since 2009, Caoxian has always been able to seize the opportunities given by the times. In the past 15 years, both individuals and local governments have taken advantage of the trend of e-commerce and made the right decision at every opportunity.

Some companies have too many orders to complete

Horse-faced skirt manufacturers in Caoxian County have just passed the busiest Spring Festival.

On March 9, CCTV Finance reported that in the first two months of this year, local sales of horse-faced skirts were close to 550 million yuan.

Ren Yafeng's company started selling horse-faced skirts early last year, as of September last year, daily sales reached a maximum of 500 pieces. During the Spring Festival this year, sales surged to an average of more than 1,000 pieces per day, a 10-fold increase over the same period last year, far exceeding the factory's production capacity. For this reason, the live broadcast room that originally broadcast for 6 hours a day was offline in advance after only broadcasting for 3 hours. "No more, otherwise we won't be able to ship the goods." Ren Yafeng told a reporter from Jimu News.

The horse-faced skirt is a traditional costume in the Ming and Qing Dynasties. It has four skirt doors, front, back, inside and outside. The outer skirt door is decorated, and the inner skirt door has less or no decoration. In recent years, with the rise of national trend culture, the improved version of the horse-faced skirt has become increasingly popular and has become one of the fashion items of the "new Chinese style" trend.

Data from the Cao County E-commerce Service Center shows that during this year’s Spring Festival, the county’s sales of New Year’s Eve clothing, mainly horse-faced skirts, exceeded 300 million yuan. Zhang Longfei, director of the center, introduced the process of the horse-faced skirt becoming popular: In July 2022, the internationally renowned brand Dior released a mid-length skirt priced at RMB 29,000. Because its shape resembles a horse-faced skirt, some netizens pointed out that The product design is suspected of plagiarizing the horse-faced skirt. This matter attracted a lot of attention in a short period of time, and the horse-faced skirt also entered the public eye.

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Caoxian Hanfu Design Research Institute

In 2023, e-commerce manufacturers in Caoxian County began mass production of horse-faced skirts. Prior to this, these companies mainly produced performance clothing and Hanfu.

"Horse face skirt is actually a development stage of Hanfu production." Zhang Longfei told reporters. In the past, most of the Hanfu on the market were gorgeously made and had high unit prices, and their consumer groups were also fixed in the small circle of Hanfu enthusiasts. In 2018, Caoxian County joined the Hanfu production track with its complete performance costume production chain and launched Hanfu with a lower unit price, quickly attracting a large number of consumers. "The Hanfu produced in Caoxian County has promoted Hanfu products from niche to mass, and the emergence of horse-faced skirts represents the fact that Hanfu is becoming more and more everyday." Zhang Longfei said.

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In 2013, Dinglou Village was selected into the first batch of "Taobao Villages"

The popularity of horse-faced skirts is somewhat sudden, but for Caoxian, this success is no accident. From studio clothes to performance clothes, to Hanfu and horse-faced skirts, Caoxian always seems to be able to seize the opportunities given by the times again and again. Behind the opportunities, we can see the clear context and logic of Cao County's clothing production: starting from the "first person in e-commerce" in Dinglou Village, Daji Town, Cao County in 2009, Internet e-commerce has been deeply embedded in the development of the county. Both individuals and local governments are riding the wave of e-commerce and making the right decision every time an opportunity comes.

Villagers changed by the Internet

In 2009, Ren Qingsheng, a villager in Dinglou Village, Daji Town, Cao County, connected his home to an Internet cable and started an e-commerce business, becoming the first "crab eater" in the village.

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Ren Qingsheng’s company birthday outfit

That year, China's online sales achieved three milestone breakthroughs: the number of online shopping users exceeded 100 million; online shopping transactions accounted for 2.06% of the total retail sales of consumer goods; as of the end of September that year, the number of online businesses in China reached 63 million. E-commerce helps Chinese companies expand markets, reduce costs, and improve efficiency, and has become an important part of China's modern service industry.

At that time, for most people in Caoxian County, the Internet and e-commerce were still unfamiliar and out of reach terms. Most of the villagers in Daji Town make a living by farming and working outside, resulting in serious population loss. Some merchants produce and sell studio clothing, which means they provide photo studios with gorgeous and exaggerated but low-quality photography clothing. In 1992, 21-year-old Ren Qingsheng began to sell studio clothing to merchants in the village. Carrying a snakeskin bag, he traveled around the country to sell, often selling two or three of them when he went out.In the past month, I have traveled as far as Guangzhou. Life outside is difficult, and sometimes I can’t sell a single item a day. Two years later, he returned to his hometown and became an electrician.

In the first 38 years of his life, Ren Qingsheng never imagined that he would be associated with the Internet and e-commerce. “I used to think that only urban white-collar workers could use computers, and I never thought about how farmers like us would use them,” Ren Qingsheng told reporters. In September 2009, with the mentality of giving it a try, he and his wife, with the encouragement of friends, spent 1,400 yuan to buy a second-hand assembled computer, and planned to open an online store to sell studio clothes and performance clothes.

When the computer was first installed, Ren Qingsheng couldn't type. To do this, he first learned Pinyin from his children's Chinese textbook, and then typed out the characters one by one on the computer. In October of that year, he registered a Taobao store to sell studio clothing and agricultural products.

It was not until half a year later that Ren Qingsheng received his first customer. A teacher in Guangdong found Ren Qingsheng’s online store, sent him a photo of a set of children’s costumes, and asked if he could make it. Ren Qingsheng agreed immediately. The other party ordered more than 40 sets at 60 yuan each. Ren Qingsheng and his wife immediately bought the fabric and made it at home. Excluding the cost of materials and express delivery, Ren Qingsheng earned more than 2,000 yuan from this order. In 2010, Ren Qingsheng earned more than 6,000 yuan through an online store, equivalent to two or three years of farming income.

Ren Qingsheng's deeds spread quickly, and more and more people followed suit and opened online stores to sell performance clothes online. "At the beginning, everyone didn't know how to operate it. They could only lead one by one and help one by one, and that's how it started." Ren Qingsheng said.

By 2011, there were more than 100 online stores selling performance clothing in Dinglou Village. In 2014, Ren Qingsheng was elected as the party secretary of Dinglou Village, and later served as the president of the Daji Town Taobao Industry Chamber of Commerce. "We are committed to electing capable people in e-commerce as 'two representatives and one committee member' to tilt the halo more towards them." Zhang Longfei told reporters.

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Cao County Digital Economy Industrial Park

A grassroots promoter that cannot be ignored

In 2013, Ali Research Institute announced the first batch of 13 Taobao villages, including Dinglou Village and Zhangzhuang Village in Daji Town, Cao County.

Zhang Longfei introduced,In the development of the e-commerce industry, each level of government, from village to town to county, performs its own duties. "Sometimes a good secretary in a village or town may promote the industry to a bigger and broader scale."

The "China Taobao Village Development Report (2009-2019)" also pointed out: "In a large number of Taobao villages, especially in the early Taobao villages that 'made something out of nothing', grassroots entrepreneurs and grassroots promoters basically exist at the same time and achieve each other. Many times , Without the protection, promotion and guidance of smart grassroots promoters, it would be difficult for grassroots entrepreneurs and their e-commerce industry to take root in the countryside and become a prairie fire." Most of these grassroots promoters are the main leaders of villages and towns.

This "driving force" played a key role in the early stages of Caoxian e-commerce. In 2013, a large number of villagers in Dinglou Village and Zhangzhuang Village, Daji Town, Cao County began selling performance clothes on Taobao stores. They placed clothes-sewing machines in their yards and hired fellow villagers to help with production, packaging, and sales. "The whole yard was full of clothes, and there were no roads. Everyone was walking back and forth on the clothes." Ren Qingsheng recalled.

In April 2013, Su Yongzhong, then secretary of the Party Committee of Daji Town, learned about villagers selling performance clothes online during a fire safety inspection. At that time, he had just taken office and did not understand what e-commerce was. However, he saw development opportunities in this still extensive production and sales model, and realized that this "wild" e-commerce power needed more professional and standardized guidance. "Secretary Su told me: 'If you should register a company, register a company, and if you need a business license, apply for a business license. Otherwise, you will produce three-no products and you will be complained about in the society in the future.'" Ren Qingsheng recalled.

But for these grassroots entrepreneurs, it is not easy to embark on formalized company operations. "At that time, many villagers had concerns and asked, 'Do we want to charge more taxes by letting us set up a company?'" Ren Qingsheng said. At the call of the town, he became the first person in the village to register a company. On the day he obtained the business license, the town officials led people to beat gongs and drums and set off firecrackers before delivering the license to his office.

Under the leadership of Ren Qingsheng, the villagers also registered companies one after another and embarked on the road of formalized operations.

In 2013, Daji Town established a Taobao Industry Development Leading Group, consisting of six people including the mayor of Daji Town, the director of the police station, and the district secretary. The leading group has a Taobao Industry Development Service Office, which aims to help villagers open online stores and register companies. By 2016, almost all villagers engaged in e-commerce in the town had registered companies. Later, the leading group developed into the Daji Town and Cao County E-commerce Office.

In terms of supporting facilities, since 2013, the Daji Town Government has coordinated with the transportation, communications, power supply and other departments to lay, repair, and widen rural roads for Taobao Village. Today, both sides of Sangwan Road in Daji Town are lined with upstream and downstream garment manufacturing industries such as embroidery, printing, and accessories. This main road, which is 11 kilometers long and runs through 16 natural villages, has been renovated and upgraded, widening from the original 4 meters to 9 meters..

In addition, the government has stepped up efforts to transform rural fiber-optic broadband and greatly increased Internet speeds. It has also specially set up high-power transformers for Taobao villages to solve the power shortage problem caused by the increase in offline processing enterprises and the increase in high-power appliances. In order to let more villagers know the relevant knowledge of opening a Taobao store, the town government has launched a free e-commerce training class, starting from the simplest typing basics, Taobao terminology, tool use, and transaction procedures.

Today, Cao County has a total of 19 Taobao towns and 168 Taobao villages, making it the second largest rural Taobao industry cluster in the country after Yiwu. The county has gathered more than 5,000 e-commerce merchants and more than 60,000 online stores, driving 350,000 people to start businesses and find employment. Among them, all 32 administrative villages under the jurisdiction of Daji Town have been rated as Taobao villages. 80% of the 47,000 people in the town are engaged in performance clothing processing and upstream and downstream industries. The annual output value of the town’s e-commerce is nearly 7 billion yuan. In the national e-commerce market, nearly 70% of performance costumes and 30% of Hanfu are produced here, making Daji Town a veritable "Chinese Hanfu production base."

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Photo provided by interviewee of Daji Town E-commerce Service Building

The way to success is to follow the market

In Zhang Longfei’s view, from performance costumes to Hanfu to the now popular horse-faced skirts, Caoxian’s path to success is simple—always follow the market. "Enterprises are always keenly aware of market trends, and all the government can do is set the stage." Zhang Longfei said.

Among the e-commerce practitioners in Caoxian County, "always grasping the market trend" is clearly reflected. Since 2020, due to the epidemic, offline performances have decreased, and the production and sales of performance costumes in Caoxian County have also been affected. "At that time, I thought about making some clothes that can be worn alone." Ren Qinglong, the person in charge of Caoxian Runfenglin Clothing, told reporters that after the epidemic, with the recovery of the domestic tourism market, he took a fancy to the travel photography market spawned by the tourism industry. , started producing and selling travel photography clothing, "Facts have proved that my idea was right. Many scenic spots became popular last year, and my business was also very good."

The emergence of horse-faced skirts is also an opportunity that Caoxian e-commerce companies have seen from the ever-changing clothing market. After the "Dior Incident", companies in the county successively invested in the production of horse-faced skirts. Spring 2023, e-commerce boss Ren Yafeng was optimistic about the market prospects of horse-face skirts, so he bought a factory to specialize in the production of horse-face skirts. According to statistics, there are currently 2,282 Hanfu-related companies in Cao County with nearly 100,000 employees, while there are about 1,500 horse-face skirt-related companies with 60,000 employees.

Caoxian, who is good at seizing business opportunities in the craze, also adheres to the development tradition of the past 15 years, calmly catching the sudden heat and traffic, and undertaking the expansion and upgrading of the horse skirt industry. In order to solve the problem of insufficient originality, in 2021, with the approval of the State Intellectual Property Office, the Cao County Intellectual Property Rapid Rights Protection Center was established, mainly to carry out rapid intellectual property rights protection work for the county's performance clothing and forest products industries.

"This can shorten the patent application time for Caoxian Hanfu and horse-faced skirt products from 180 days to 10 days." Zhang Longfei introduced. The life cycle of a popular Hanfu product is only about three months. Under normal circumstances, companies apply for a patent on the design document and then produce and sell it. By the time the patent is approved, the product's life cycle may have ended. But in Caoxian, the time to apply for a patent has been reduced to 10 days, and companies can quickly obtain the patent and put it into production. In addition, the Cao County Government has also signed cooperation agreements with the Shandong Provincial Fashion Design Association, Shandong College of Arts and Crafts, and Zhejiang Sci-Tech University Fashion College to jointly build the Cao County Hanfu Design Research Institute and the Clothing Design R&D and Promotion Center to further promote Cao County Hanfu to become branded and international. oriented and high-end development.

In Zhang Longfei's view, the function of government departments is to provide services to enterprises and create a bigger stage for them. "We rarely disturb the company and only go to the company if something happens," Zhang Longfei said.

On the stage set up by the Cao County Government, the bosses of e-commerce companies are eager to try and open up a broader market. Are you afraid of facing tougher competition? Facing the reporter's question, Ren Qinglong shook his head and said firmly: "The market is open and you can't do things behind closed doors. Only by going out can you find the gap with others and do better in this industry."

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