Tying the knot in traditional wedding garb back in vogue
THE fashion of hand-embroidered special-occasion dresses, such as traditional Chinese gowns like qipao and guapao, is having a revival in the China market, thanks to firms such as Tengxun Bridal and, in a sense, the Chinese first lady.
Lin Shuang, 35, founded the Tengxun Bridal studio in 2009 after quitting her job with a state-owned trading company in Beijing.
When she took the plunge into the traditional Chinese fashion business, it was not considered a good move.
Back then, fashion was not seen as an occupation with a bright future.
But Lin, a college graduate who majored in law, sensed business potential in the segment when her quest for a stunning qipao for her soon-to-wed sister turned into a never-ending search.
A qipao, a traditional form-fitting dress, consists of three layers of sleeves embroidered with gold threads and a skirt.
Up to 400 hours over six months can go into the making of a qipao.
Lin started to design a qipao herself. She asked a tailor whom her family had known for a long time to make one based on her sketches.
The qipao proved a massive hit. That encouraged Lin to convert a seemingly one-off exercise into a business.
Now, her studio has grown into one of the largest high-end traditional Chinese wedding gown and clothing stores in Beijing.
On average, it serves more than 200 newly-weds per year.
This is a far cry from the time when traditional Chinese wedding gowns were not such a hot pursuit for the newly-weds.
Young Chinese people were heavily influenced by Western styles then.
Even today, traditional Chinese wedding clothing takes up only 10 per cent of the special-occasion garment market.
"Brides in China often think about only the dresses that could make them look like a princess in the West," said Shi Yiping, a dress designer at Beijing Institute Of Fashion Technology.
But in recent years, particularly after the country's first lady Peng Liyuan showed up at state events wearing traditional dresses that were an elegant mix of Chinese cultural elements and modern clothing, local fashion has been attracting attention again, Lin said.
Last year, Tengxun doubled its sales.
Investors are making a beeline for a stake to help expand her business. Lin has decided to shut her line of Western wedding gowns and focus entirely on traditional Chinese gowns.
"I work closely with the leaders in the wedding industry, particularly wedding planners," she said.
Given that specially-made wedding gowns tend to be expensive, Tengxun's strategy works better than mindless advertising, Lin said.
"Our products are priced from 8,000 yuan to 100,000 yuan (S$1,700 to S$21,000).
"There is no need for us to compete with retailers on Taobao.com who sell Chinese wedding gowns at 1,000 yuan apiece."
CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK