Special report – China

Special report – China 🇨🇳

Live from the Market

2023 was the year of transition for epidemic prevention and control in China. During this initial economic recovery phase, overall textile and clothing exports fell, with cotton products having the greatest drop and chemical fiber products becoming the main export products. Despite the downturn in traditional export markets, there was a surge in cross-border e-commerce, penetrating regions like Southeast Asia, Europe, and the United States via platforms like TikTok. Notably, women’s clothing and lingerie stood out as key products.

Exports of cotton products declined
Picture: Annie Spratt

China’s overall textile and clothing exports in 2023 were US$293.6 billion, representing an 8.1% decline from the previous year. From January to February 2024, China’s textile and garment exports totaled US$45.09 billion, a 14.3% increase year on year. Textile exports increased by 15.5% to US$21.71 billion, while garment exports increased by 13.1% to US$23.38 billion. It is worth mentioning that the export volume from January to February far exceeded the US$38.155 billion recorded in 2019 prior to the outbreak, although it has yet to approach the level of the same period seen in 2022.

According to China Customs data, between January and February 2024, the total import and export value of silk products remained at US$295 million compared to the previous year. The total import and export value of woolen raw materials and products reached US$2.1 billion, marking an 8.4% increase year-on-year. Specifically, exports amounted to US$14.8 billion, up by 5% year on year, while imports stood at US$610 million, reflecting a 17.5% increase year on year. Notably, wool imports surged by 32.8% to 51,000 tons, although the unit price decreased by 6.2% to US$6.59/kg.

Cotton imports soared to 650,000 tons, a 1.8-fold increase year-on-year, while cotton yarn imports rose by 60% to 240,000 tons. Some cotton mills have been facing a shortage of orders, affecting production ranging from fabrics to clothing. Additionally, the capacity utilization rate of certain coastal knitting yarn mills has been suboptimal. A recent survey in March 2024 revealed that the overall capacity utilization rate was 79.7%, marking an 8.8% decrease from the previous month.

Functional fabrics and “neo-Chinese style” fabrics are selling well

Since April 2020, the Chinese government has determined to “build a new development pattern with domestic circulation as the mainstay and domestic and international circulations reinforcing each other.” Since then, the domestic circulation approach has proven to be highly effective for the textile and clothing industry. As per the Statistical Communiqué of the People’s Republic of China on the 2023 National Economic and Social Development from the National Bureau of Statistics of China, there was a 12.9% increase in clothing, shoes, hats, and knitted textiles. The annual retail sales of these items amounted to RMB1.4 trillion, marking a 12.9% year-on-year growth. National online retail sales of clothing products rose by 10.8% from the previous year and by 7.3% from 2022.

The structure of fashion consumption has undergone significant changes. Price sensitivity has increased, while attention to well-known brands, especially overseas ones, has decreased. A noticeable trend is the growing popularity of clothing and fabrics with Chinese cultural characteristics. For example, the sales of Hanfu (Han-style clothing) such as Mamianqun (horse-face skirts) have achieved explosive growth, including jacquards and brocades with traditional patterns, and certain fabrics incorporating traditional handicrafts.

Plant-dyed cotton and linen fabrics, for example, are in high demand, and the businesses engaged have a wide range of offerings, particularly for young women’s, adult women’s, and children’s clothes. The surge in the “neo-Chinese style” market has propelled the growth of associated industries.

In addition, a key aspect of clothing brands sold in the domestic market in 2023 is their focus on functionality. Traditional local brands excel in sports and down jacket categories, whereas newer vertical brands also prioritize sports and cold protection. With a focus on creating standout products, these brands have a dedicated approach to research and development, leading to the popularity of functional fabrics like sun protection and thermal insulation fabrics.

Extensive sustainability primarily involves adjusting production and sales processes
Picture: Yu Kato

Online sales of local brands account for a significant portion of total sales, particularly as sales expand on social media platforms like Douyin. Online pre-sales, big data analysis, and other methods can effectively control inventory, addressing the major issue of deadstock in the textile and clothing industry to some extent. This approach stands out as the most widely adopted and effectively applied sustainable practice in China’s textile and clothing industry. Meanwhile, environmentally conscious mid-to-high-end brands using eco-friendly materials and manufacturing processes are gradually attracting consumer interest in a subtle manner. Key products include cotton, linen, wool, silk, and functional fabrics.

In 2024, China’s textile and clothing industry will face numerous uncertainties in both local and international trade. Various countries’ policies will influence exports. Domestic customer desires have not been sufficiently boosted for the time being. This is also a significant reason why functional clothing and materials have gained popularity. Essential apparel capable of addressing practical needs has somewhat supplanted aesthetic considerations, capturing the attention of a broader consumer base.

By Wendaomi, April 16th 2024

Ones to watch (very) closely…

Discover our selection of brands making waves on the Chinese market



BRAND JNBY SHOPS in 2023: 935

Price range: 500-3000 yuan

Medium High

In the second half of 2023, JNBY women’s clothing brand’s revenue was 1.7 billion yuan, a year-on-year increase of 24%, with a gross profit of 1.138 billion yuan, a year-on-year increase of 25.2%.

JNBY means —— “Just Naturally Be Yourself “. The design philosophy of the brand is natural, beautiful, and comfortable, emphasizing the selection of fabrics and fine craftsmanship, committed to creating high-quality and comfortable women’s clothing products. “Modern, Vitality, Meaningful, Serenity” with a strong focus on research and improving materials. The brand has gained high recognition in China.


Founded in 2012

Shop: 2

International Top Magasin: 70

Based in Shanghai & Milan

Menswear & Womenswear

Price range: 2000-20000 yuan

Called “Yohji Yamamoto of China”

ZIGGY CHEN is a brand founded by Chinese designer CHEN Xiang. Deeply influenced by both trendy and classical fashion, as well as Eastern and Western style, the artist is skilled at blending traditional Chinese culture with minimalist aesthetic concepts. The brand has strong craftsmanship spirit and constantly polishes “visually inconspicuous” fabrics. Wool, cotton, linen are the brand’s signature fabrics seeking naturalness and timelessness.

ZIGGY CHEN mainly focuses on overseas markets with almost 80% of the brand’s sales coming from abroad.


Mass market


Founded in 1991

Shops in 2023: 7053

2023 Revenue: 30.306 billion yuan, an increase of 9.3% compared to 2022.

ANTA was founded in 1991, engaged in the design, development, manufacturing of ANTA brand sports products, including sports shoes, clothing, and accessories. ANTA group has a diversified brand portfolio, including ANTA, FILA, DESCENTE, KOLON SPORT etc. Their products cover multiple sports such as running, basketball, football, badminton, swimming, boxing etc to meet the needs of different groups of people.




Founded in 2013

Shops in 2023: 82

Price range: 2000-10000 yuan

ZHUCHONGYUN is a brand named after Marisfrolg Fashion Group’s founder Ms. ZHU Chongyun. The brand adheres to the Eastern spirit as its creative inspiration, presenting the natural beauty of women, establishing ideological art, sharing life philosophy, and conveying contemporary aesthetic attitudes. The brand excels in cutting heavy sophisticated fabrics with modern minimalist techniques, and inherits Eastern beauty through the fusion of  contemporary silhouettes and handmade techniques as sense of design.


Founded in 2002

Sustainable Fashion & Lifestyle Brand

Price range: 500-3000 yuan

Shops: 100+

ZUCZUG —— Chinese name “Su Ran”, literally means “plainness”. It is a multi-brand platform dedicated to new lifestyle, ZUCZUG encompasses a number of brands, including ZUCZUG for fashion, 4M36 for basics, klee klee for environment-friendliness, An Ko Rau for sports, extra one for bags and accessories, the designer’s brand WHM, 3ge3 project for artful goods, coffea SHED for lifestyle, textile studio naze naze, the select shop in the PARK, and cultural institution ChuokeChuoke. ZUCZUG strives to create recyclable design and production models and values the sustainable growth of individuals and the construction of diverse community cultures. ZUCZUG also became the 45th B-Corp certified enterprise in China in 2022.


Founded in 1993

Shops: 50

Price Range: 2000-8000 yuan

Founded and creatively directed by Izumi Ogino, ANTEPRIMA seeks to create timeless, effortless, and sophisticated collection designed for modern women. Simplicity, elegance, and refinement have always been deeply rooted in the brand’s design philosophy. ANTEPRIMA is strong at knit wear design  and the Wirebag is the iconic creation of the brand.


The eye of Tranoï

Tranoï, the trade show partner specializing in young international designers, shares its pick of emerging Chinese-based brands to follow


Ready-to-wear / knitwear

Arya: Redefining pure luxury and effortless elegance.

Born in China, Arya is steeped in the artisanal know-how of ancient Oriental beauty. We meticulously select high-quality natural materials, embracing an outlook based on ” bravado, independence, strength and cool-headedness”. We integrate sustainable thinking into our products, to create exquisite high-end knitwear for women looking for a high quality lifestyle, redefining pure luxury and effortless elegance.

Instagram →

Picture: Arya
Picture: Ooak


Accessories / Jewelry

OOAK is a comprehensive platform revolving around the idea of ” jewelry with style”. OOAK was founded in 2012 by Alice Xu to share her love of fashion jewelry and design. China’s first multi-brand boutique specializing in designer jewelry, OOAK, which is short for “One of a Kind”, scours the globe to bring together a handpicked selection of both established and emerging designers. Over the years, OOAK has earned a reputation as “the best jeweler” in China.

In early 2017, OOAK embarked on a new journey with its eponymous in-house jewelry line, launching OOAK into a whole new chapter.


(Re)discover our special report #5: Japan →

See you next month for our special report #6 on the Turkish market.