BEIJING: Comfort is winning over sex appeal in China’s bra market as women are increasingly choosing wireless, more comfortable bras as part of a shift that could affect the global market.

The trend, reported in a feature by the South China Morning Post, follows that taking place in Western markets, where the trend toward athleisure has helped to elevate comfort to a style ambition.

“Satisfying their own needs instead of pleasing other people is definitely a trend found among female consumers nowadays,” said Jet Liu, founder of a one-year-old lingerie startup, Dare One. The startup’s success attest to the importance of comfort – the company is turning over tens of millions of yuan this year and operates four physical stores. It intends to grow to 30 stores by 2019.

Sales of wireless bras are up 70% in China, according to CBNData and Tmall. Such a rise is driven by younger consumers, says Pascal Martin, partner at OC&C Strategy Consultants. “The insatiable curiosity of younger women for global trends and brands, combined with their strong consumption power, makes them very attractive customer targets for lingerie brands.”

The shift prizes more than just comfort, however. Aesthetic standards appear to be changing away from sexiness and towards the personal satisfaction of the wearer. One Hong Kong-based designer, Peggy Marlene Lim who spoke to the SCMP noted how both older and younger generations were placing greater emphasis on comfort and fabric but also, “they look more natural than wire bras, too.”

Currently, China’s US$43.42 billion lingerie market is still dominated by big western brands that do most of their business in Tier 1 cities. As the trend proliferates in line with growing prosperity in lower tier cities, Frost and Sullivan estimates that the total market for lingerie in China will be worth US$64.49 billion by the end of 2020.

Of the top 10 brands in the Chinese market, just one originated in China. Neiwai, which sells primarily in Tmall and and is expanding quickly by marketing a “higher form of sexiness”, as the founder, Liu Xiaolu told China Daily.

“It would be a little exaggerated to call it feminist. But I wanted to create a brand that doesn't twist, suppress, or objectify women's bodies. Instead, it makes them comfortable and happy, which I think is a higher form of sexiness,” she said.  

For brands, the offer has therefore changed, and so has the retail experience. Matteo Veronesi, CEO of Calzedonia Group told the Post that his brands keep up new product releases on a weekly basis. “This helps us to have a constant dialogue and relationship with the customers”.

Meanwhile, the US brand Third Love, which WARC covered earlier this summer, is aiming to win the comfort battle by using detailed questionnaires of its consumers. The information covers previous bra sizes, sources of discomfort and more nuanced measures such as shape. This information then feeds into creating the products that the audience wants.

Sourced from South China Morning Post, China Daily, WARC