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Getting to Grips with China’s Streetwear Market

The founder of Chinese media, e-commerce and event platform Yoho! breaks down China’s fast-changing youth culture.
Queennie Yang and Liang Chao speak during #BoFVOICES | Source: Getty Images for The Business of Fashion
By
  • Sarah Kent

OXFORDSHIRE, United Kingdom — In China, if you stand still you get left behind.

As the founder of Chinese media, e-commerce and event platform Yoho!, Liang Chao has been chronicling Chinese youth culture for over ten years. His message to attendees at BoF VOICES was clear.

“In China we felt the development speed is too fast,” he said, speaking in Mandarin. “Within one year the changes are enormous. So in China we must continue to understand consumers; flexibility and agility is so important.”

One example he gave was the evolution of consumer behaviour during Singles' Day, the Chinese equivalent of Black Friday. This year, live streaming was the most popular form of purchasing for consumers, a big shift from earlier in the year when the medium wasn't as popular, Liang said.

In China we must continue to understand consumers; flexibility and agility is so important.

But it’s not just purchasing patterns that are changing fast. Chinese fashion tastes and culture are evolving fast, adapting and swiftly localising international trends. For instance, over the last three years, streetwear has exploded in China and become much more prevalent in popular culture and local media.

Most global youths are interested in the same things, but the pace is different in the east and the west, Liang said. "In China you can’t be rapping in English all the time, so a lot of local rappers are incorporating local dialects... This is the ‘Chinese-isation’ of streetwear culture."

To remain current, Yoho! carefully monitors the data it gathers on consumer behaviour and adjusts its stock on a weekly basis. It’s constantly adopting new formats and evolving the way it produces content. “Methods, formats and content: if we don’t stay on top of it, we’ll expire in three years, even one year,” Liang said.

His advice to international brands seeking to grow in China was simple: know your market.

“The way consumers work is completely different in the west. If a brand is popular last year, it does not mean it will continue to be popular this year. Understanding the Chinese market must be a continuous effort,” he said.

To learn more about VOICES, BoF's annual gathering for big thinkers, visit our VOICES website, where you can find all the details on our invitation-only global gathering.

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