The Hanfu Movement and Commercialization

The Author (right) at the Chinese "Minzu zhi Hua" Pageant, representing the Han, along with the Manchu representative (left).

Original title: 汉服运动与商业化
By: YANG Na, alias Lanzi Fangxi 兰芷芳兮, Baidu Hanfu Bar
Translated by: Juni YEUNG, alias Satsuki Shizuka
Original Link: http://tieba.baidu.com/f?kz=675958437    

Translator’s note: For this work, the only work I have added is the use of graphic illustrations and supporting links in the original essay. Otherwise, all aspects remain the same.    

Disclaimer:    

  1. This essay should be, I think, an academic discussion. Hence if you wish to cite or repost, please note its source. (Transl: done~)
  2. This essay attempts to discuss and analyze from an academic perspective. Fellow Hanfu fans please do not target or stereotypicalize specific makers as a result of this.

Forward:    

The Hanfu Movement refers to the revival of the use of Hanfu as its entry point, to bring forward the total recovery of Zhonghua culture and its ethnic spirit. Hanfu: It is a piece of clothing, but also a commercial product. Its revival inevitably also requires it to undergo commercialized production to promote, and develop through market competition. Although the Hanfu Movement has developed for six years, and businesses are flourishing in different places, their standards are confusing, and with netizen attacks and rumour accusations, various kinds of improper methods of market competition are also quickly arising. Therefore, this essay attempts to describe the development of Hanfu commercialization through its flow, method, and strategic weaknesses, as well picking out the traits, and provide some suggestions in marketing strategies in the contemporary Hanfu market.    

Commercialization of Hanfu is not industrialization, as the former refers to the means of producing a certain product for the sake of profit. (BusinessDictionary) The notion of commercialization is opposed to artisize, but it matches with the most basic of public aesthetics – the basis of style and form et cetera. According to modern perspectives of product market, commercialization is divided into four procedures: Concept, Development, Display, and Promotion.    

    

1. Concept    

The concept of Hanfu is not something that can be imagined out of thin air. After it requires the basic traits of Hanfu, it allows a certain degree of reasonable development. Which follows three basic questions:    

(1) What is Hanfu?
Hanfu: The clothing of the Han (Chinese) ethnicity. This broad concept is difficult to further clearly define. As some people believe: the costumes used in historical (TV) dramas are stage costumes, not Hanfu; archaeologically proven and restored clothing are traditional clothing, hence are also not Hanfu; and improved  Hanfu is designed by contemporary people, hence cannot be called Hanfu even more. Then, what exactly should we wear in order to have it be called Hanfu?    

(2) What are the basic traits of Hanfu?
The basic traits of Hanfu is crossed-collar with rightward lapel, buttonless and tied by sash, wide gowns and broad sleeves. To this definition alone, there are many debates: Do parallel collars, narrow-sleeved Duanda etc. not belong to this lexical meaning? And outside of this concept, there are also things like zippers, hidden buttons, and elastic, do they also belong to Hanfu?    

(3) To what degree is “reasonable” developement?
The question of “improvement” is the largest topic of debate in Hanfu on whether it is “standard” or not. For example, can one use thin and revealing materials; or must one follow the width of the sleeves at the elbow joint according to texts? Do we have to follow Ming or Zhou standards to the letter on shape and form? These debates have not only led to confusing messages in the Hanfu market, but have also become reasons for commercial bodies and their fans to attack each other.    

The unfortunate thing is, unto this day in the Hanfu Movement, there is still no one who can critically answer these three above questions. I believe there are two paths:    

1. From top down. Have an organization with confining powers in society to give a clear answer, such as Zhu Yuanzhang at the beginning of the Ming dynasty announce, “Edict: Clothes and headgear shall be as Tang standard” and regulate the dimensions of Ming clothing systems. The Muslims can, through the Qu’ran, regulate customs and clothing. From this we can see, this method is more suitable to events supported and sponsored by the government. For the civilian-based Hanfu Movement, after getting the approval from the officials, they can allow the people in power unify the standards. This method is not only more difficult, it is also difficult to have the restorationists approve of it.    

2. From bottom up. Allow the customers to define by popularity. Organizations are formed from local groups, and standardize Hanfu from various academic conferences, such as the AIB commercial conference, attended by global leading business consultants, experts, and scholars, participating and communicating on business operations (Lewin, 2009). The World Computer Congress (WCC), otherwise known as the Olympics of international IT businesses, also have the most authoritative and influential powers from its reports in the field.    

So, where are such similar authorities and academic discussion today? The current situation for the Hanfu movement is, the makers take inaccuracies in anothers’ creation, and mutually attack each other. Certain forum administrators, or a certain professional will also take conclusions based on one side of thought. Without a group of arbitrators to determine the rights and wrongs, there will be no end to the internal war on words even with tens of Hanfu ateliers, and the contradictions will only deepen by the day.    

Any ideological movement in history is not actualized by individuals alone. Commercialization and organization is essential in the Hanfu movement. Right now the movement is in most dire need of an academic team (not referring to fashion or history experts, but members from within the Hanfu movement with a higher understanding of Hanfu standards, higher amount of knowledge, fame, and influence), and regulate the design of Hanfu produced, monitor, lead, and support the Hanfu industry.    

Minghua Tang clothing is comparable with any quality ethnic dress around the world.

2. Development    

Development refers to the actualization of an abstract research result into reality, such as putting a patent into invention, and finding research and investment partners. Along with the expansion of the Hanfu concept and increase of participants, the development of the Hanfu business is at its zenith. With the rise of Hanfu in the 21st century, I believe that only by abiding the 4-P rule – that being “product”, “price”, “promotion”, and “place” – can we succeed in assuming an advantage in the market.    

  1. Product
    As a Hanfu maker, the first guarantee is the quality of the clothing, the detail of the artisanry and other basic qualifications, in order to ensure its basic operation. The broad definition term not only includes the tangible product, but also includes intangible aspects such as service, technical support, knowledge et cetera. For example, Minghua Tang takes the finest material, combined with expert craftsmanship and quality service, and is loved by Hanfu aficionados all around.

    A comparatively cheaper Ming-style aoqun at Rumeng Nishang.

  2. Price
    In marketing, price is a common strategy in competition. However, since businesses’ primary objective is in making a profit, its set price must also attend to the double-standard of advertising corporate efficacy. A mistake in this strategy will lead to a deficit loss, and even resulting in bankruptcy. For example, Rumeng Nishang takes on a lower price range, abiding by the principle of large sales by slimmer profit margins, and hence currently have a larger share of the Hanfu market.
  3. Promotion
    Hanfu’s main method of promotions are bulk purchases and student discounts. These strategies are also basic methods in promotion in any market operation. For example, Hanyin Guan gives a 15% discount to students, while most Hanfu ateliers give a certain amount of discount for bulk purchases of the same product style.

    Hanyin Guan offers steady quality with good service.

  4. Place
    A “place” refers to the sales channel from the method of production to the hands of the consumers. Currently Hanfu’s channels are mostly B2C (Business-to-customer), and its main mode is in direct internet retail, personal retail, and specialized shop retail. For example, “Tongguan” Atelier based online, Chonghui Hantang based in an actual shop, et cetera. As for B2C telephone retail, or B2B (business-to-business) and C2C (customer-to-customer) methods, they can be considered as new strategies to the commercialization process for Hanfu in the future.

3. Presentation    

Presentation is primarily for the showing of finished goods and the perfecting of the good’s functions. Along with the expansion of the Hanfu Movement, Hanfu makers not only vy for the market within the circle of fans, but also are attracting more customers from society. Since the 1990’s, the “4P” principle has gradually been overtaken by the “4C” principle, being “customer”, “cost”, “communication”, and “convenience”. Hanfu in its second stage should also abide by the 4C principle as its core strategy.    

Hanbang Fu.

  1. Customer
    In the increasingly fierce competition today, customers play an increasingly important status. Many businesses are beginning to make their products according to the specifications of the customers’ needs. For example, Hanbang Fu accepts custom orders with the purchaser supplying the materials. Most shops also modify their use of colour and matching according to their clients’ needs.

    Hanyifang focuses on external PR and events.

    Another important principle is, at the same time of searching for a new clientele, one has to retain their current ones. Because it takes five times more capital to obtain a new client than retaining an old one (Customer Retention, 2007), by abiding a 80-20 principle, or obtaining 80% of the profits from existing clientele, many makers are noticing their ratings from within the Hanfu circle and their own clientele while expanding their markets. For example, Han Yi Fang spent much of its strength in its early days in external advertising and Hanfu awareness PR campaigns, it overlooked its own relationship with the Hanfu Restoration mainstream group. In contrast, Rumeng Nishang grasped its clientele into its own community through their own internet community forums.  

    Shuang Yu'ou.

    CRM (Customer-relations management) and CEM (Customer-experience Management) are also becoming increasingly important. For examples, Hanfu makers and clubs in secondary/tertiary education institutes coordinating Hanfu try-on events, or Shuang Yu’ou organizing regular group outing events. These interactive events with customers can even lead them to become fans of the businesses, and are important elements in obtaining success in marketing.   

  2. Cost
    Asides from the price of the product, a customer’s cost also includes the learning costs of the business, translation costs, and other related paid costs. The product design based on these combined considerations, as well the diversified classification of the market strategy is of great importance. The price war of Hanfu after 2006 can be said to be increasingly intense, and can even be said to be to be at the polar extremities.

    Hancai clothing at unit retail costs as low as 60RMB.

    * Popularization: Taking Hancai [transl.: now out of operation] as the pioneer of this route, taking Hanfu designs and producing them en masse, hence lower its costs, and has an undeniable role in promoting Hanfu to the general public, and is also an inevitable trend in the future.
    Haute-quality: With Minghua Tang as the prime example, with them taking high-quality standards with their custom-order material, through strict archaeological investigation of existing artefacts. While this raised the costs, it has undoubtedly advanced the production of haute-couture of Hanfu. High-end specialization is also a mandatory procedure for Hanfu to enter the formal clothing market.  

  3. Communication
    Customer communication must first state that the promotion strategy of the business is customer-oriented. Human communication in the 21st century is reliant to a large degree on blogs, internet forums, chatroom and other digital software. In the development of the Hanfu Movement, businesses have developed countless ways of maintaining this communication channel with QQ groups, blogs and forums. With the rise of Xiaonei/Facebook, Baidu Bar forums, and other increasingly popular net-based platforms, which will attract these businesses to pay their attention towards?
  4. Convenience
    Coca Cola can be bought anywhere, and fast food includes delivery – these are all for the sake of shortening the distance of the customer from the product. Easily seen today, is that Hanfu has not come to this step yet. Ordering online, the wait on custom tailoring, and the length of shipping wait have all unknowingly distanced Hanfu from its aficionados physically and psychologically. Which company in the future will be able to grasp this important aspect of convenience as a competitive factor? Time will tell.

4. Promotion  

The promotion of Hanfu should be synonymous to the Hanfu Movement. The development of the Hanfu Movement has went through its stages of the virtual world, into reality, and into organizations of the future, and is gradually actualizing the revival of ethnic culture, national spirit, and ethnic faith. Asides from reviving this trait as a vessel of culture, one should also focus on the good’s other attributes. In commercialized promotion, the first priority is to fix its inherent problem listed in the first step of “concept” and reaffirm its definition. Otherwise, by the time “promotion” is set in place, the object will no longer be the “Hanfu” as first intended. 
I believe that under the current terms of new market economies, the traits of Hanfu businesses include:

  

Shuang Yu'ou "Qingni" sub-brand: Younger look, cheaper price

  1. Diversity
    * Diversity of forms: Along with the diversification of global good economies, Hanfu will definitely not be taken over by a “Ming standard” or a “Zhou standard”, but rather “Song standard”, “North-south period standard” and other shapes and forms Hanfu will appear. For example, Minghua Tang and Hanyin Guan are developing many standards and forms of Hanfu based on serious research and restoration of artefacts and information.
    * Spatial diversity: The diversity of global product culture brings to Hanfu a diverse space for development. Hanfu development won’t be limited to daily or formal wear, but an adaptation to various and multiple situations. For example, high-end formal and ritual Hanfu, daily at-home wear Hanfu, Han-style new fashion, etc.
    * Price diversity: The polarizing of international goods economy means that Hanfu development won’t be a single-ended development. The price of high-end goods, common goods etc. For example, Shuang Yu’ou has listed two brands “Shuang Yu’ou”[high-end] and “Qingni” [low-end]. Two ideals, two solutions – this is the best explanation towards a diversified price range solution.
  2. Mass production, industrialization
    The first Industrial Revolution’s greatest feature was the overtaking of machine production replacing handcrafted goods. With the revival of Hanfu in the 21st century, stepping towards mass production is just a matter of time. Also, small Hanfu ateliers with better sales, after taking an advantage in market share, will eventually expand into a large factory, and obtain even greater share in the market.
  3. Franchising
    Currently, Hanfu shops are spread throughout different regions in China and around the world. Along with the expansion of its operations, a national or even international franchised chain is largely possible. Just as Cadbury’s started with a single shop in England, it evolved to become an international producer. Which shop will be the first to lead Hanfu into the new world of franchising in the future?
    ** ADDENDUM **

    Yayun Huazhang's specialized raised-toe shoes.

    Franchising is divided into two parts:
    * Retail franchising. As described above, refers to the same brand sold throughout the country.
    * Industry franchising. Along with the revival of Hanfu, it will certainly bring along a boost to its accessories, hair decorations, necklaces, shoes and other traditional decorations. This can even be further expanded into service sectors such as music education, culture and etiquette learning et cetera. For example, Yayun Huazhang‘s curl-toed shoes, and Baicao Shougongfang’s hair accessories. Which businesses would grasp at the opportunities to take advantage of these related chains of the industry?
    ** END ADDENDUM ** 

  4. Globalization
    Along with the concurrent progress of the Hanfu Movement overseas, the international Hanfu market is a domain yet to be developed. With an easy-going environment and generally higher approval of Hanfu by local Chinese, as well as curiosity by foreigners, Hanfu Movement in the international scene has its unique side – today, when a Hanfu aficionado purchases Hanfu from overseas, most of the orders are purchased with others as a group, or brought out from a trip to China. Issues such as monetary transactions and currency exchange are still matters in need for improvement. Now, which Hanfu business would be willing to pay attention and open the Hanfu market worldwide?

Conclusion 

The Hanfu Movement, unto this day of development, the commercialization of the product must first quickly solve the “concept” problem, otherwise would enter an increasingly confused situation in the coming three stages. Through the four elemental stages of product, price, promotion, and place –  it is to obtain a market share in the Hanfu circle, and taking the four nuclear methods of customer, cost, communication, and convenience, and expand this Hanfu market into society. Finally, through diversification, mass production, franchising, and globalization, Hanfu will come to a total revival.  

Sources Referenced:  

BusinessDictionary, Commercialization. [Online].Available at:
http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/commercialization.html    

Customer Retention,2007. Benefits of Customer Retention: Statistics. Available at:
http://www.1000ventures.com/business_guide/crosscuttings/customer_retention.html    

Levis,Y.,2009, The Academy of International Business. [Online].Available at:
http://aib.msu.edu/    

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. 嘉林
    Dec 24, 2009 @ 23:34:42

    非常棒!!!要了!!

    Reply

  2. Fred
    Dec 25, 2009 @ 23:29:16

    Very good article. Based on my interesting in Han Fu, I created a website http://www.hanfuexe.org/. I like to provide a place to connect everyone who are interested in Han Fu promoting. Also, I like to provide Han Fu information. My final target is to coordinate a international conference to define the direction of Han Fu for 21 century. If you like it, please share this website to your friends. This website belongs to all of you. Enjoy it.

    Reply

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