The US lingerie brand is struggling to keep its signature show fresh in its native market, but in China the brand is finding a moment of cultural change as public displays of sexuality are shedding their stigma.

This is according to a feature in the Business of Fashion, which reports that the brand is enjoying an expansion of its physical footprint, heralded by a flagship store in Shanghai. It is also succeeding online, becoming the fifth most popular women’s underwear brand on Alibaba’s Tmall.

Staging a show, as many Western brands entering China will know, was not easy. The negotiations dragged out over a fourteen month period, and travelled to high levels of the Chinese government. Later hiccups followed: model Gigi Hadid was refused a visa last-minute, as was the headline performer Katy Perry. The show aired, but only after midnight, given that the Chinese government is deeply culturally conservative, and the overt sexuality on show was considered pornographic.

However, the interest of younger consumers in China will be front-and-centre for VS. “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”, said Pascal Martin, partner at OC&C Strategy Consultants, quoted in a story about lingerie trends in China.

Attitudes are changing. The decades-old big-ticket marketing strategy of the show (which would then be reused as in-store assets) struggles to attract viewers in the US. But in China, the de-stigmatisation of overt sexuality presents a ripe moment for the brand to deploy its existing model and to grow its brand in a fast-growth market, while it wrestles with ongoing market share decline in the US and an increasingly anachronistic stance in a progressive era.

However, in some instances, 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.

Western brands currently dominate China’s $43.42 billion lingerie market, operating mostly in tier one cities. As the trend proliferates in line with growing prosperity in lower tier cities, analysts estimate that the total market for lingerie in China will be worth US$64.49 billion by the end of 2020. Home grown Chinese brands are ripe to take a large slice of this, and Western strands could struggle to keep up.

Sourced from the Business of Fashion, WARC