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China's down jacket market

Chic and cozy: Inside China’s down jacket market

In the constantly changing world of fashion, China’s down jacket market is undergoing a transformation shaped by the discerning tastes of Gen Z consumers. According to the China National Garment Association, the size of the down jacket industry in China is witnessing growth, with a projection to reach RMB 195 billion in 2024.

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As consumer preferences evolve, down jackets in China have moved beyond mere functionality, now embodying a fusion of style, artistry, and luxury. This evolution is exemplified by influential domestic brands like Bosideng and Peacebird, each employing distinctive strategies that reflect the intersection of practicality and fashion.

China’s down jacket market: fashion meets functionality

Gen Z consumers are reshaping the Chinese fashion industry, as evident in the down jacket market. Functionality is a key influencer of down jacket sales, alongside other factors such as fashion, style, quality, and brand. Down jackets, essential for cold weather, are valued for their insulation capability. Despite their essential warmth, there is growing demand for fashion in this category as well. This trend is fueled by heightened living standards, a growing emphasis on quality, and a desire for artistic expression, reflecting individuality and refined taste.

Quality is key, preference for goose-down is on the rise

Quality is an important factor for Chinese consumers when purchasing down jackets. In fact, 68% of people interviewed by CNBData cited it as one of the main factors affecting their shopping decisions. Chinese consumers specifically pay attention to the padding material and its percentage amount in a puffer jacket.

While duck-down remains the most prevalent padding, sales of higher-quality goose-down jackets are increasing faster and faster. Fabrics are also an important feature. Fabric technologies, such as those containing waterproof Gore-Tex, are experiencing moderate success.

Down jackets as artistic expressions and fashion icons

Beyond functionality, Chinese consumers seek down jackets that cater to fashion enthusiasts. Renowned collaborations have transformed down jackets from functional wear into sophisticated fashion statements, seamlessly integrating them into current cultural expressions and trends. This transformation emphasizes the jackets’ ability to highlight individual personality and refined taste. Brands creatively leverage emerging trends, like streetwear fashion, and subcultures, such as Guochao, actively embraced by Chinese youth.

Amid the surge in cultural confidence and the Guochao phenomenon, renowned international brands are forging alliances with promising local talents to establish cultural resonance. A notable example is Canada Goose, which has collaborated with a diverse array of emerging Chinese designers, such as Angel Chen, Feng Chen Wang, and artist Xu Zhen, to enhance its cultural relevance in the region. The Fall 2021 Angel Chen for Canada Goose collection blends elements of both traditional Western and Eastern aesthetics. This collection honors the heritage of Canada Goose’s iconic Snow Mantra Parka, incorporating Angel’s distinctive embroidery artwork to establish a cohesive theme throughout the entire collection.

China's down jacket market
Source: Canada Goose Chinese Official Website, Canada Goose’s collaboration with Chinese designer Angel Chen

College students lead the charge as affordability sparks a surge in military coats and floral cotton-padded jackets in 2023

Despite the ongoing fashion evolution in China’s down jacket market, affordability remains crucial among consumers, especially for college students. As winter arrives, down jackets have become a hot topic of discussion due to their high prices, sparking controversy. In response, there is a noticeable trend of college students purchasing domestically produced military coats and floral cotton-padded jackets from the campuses. Many express “being unable to afford down jackets but finding military coats more cost-effective.” This trend has led to record-breaking sales for businesses specializing in military coats (军大衣) and floral cotton-padded jackets (花棉袄).

China's down jacket market
Source: College students wearing military coats and floral cotton-padded jackets to class

Data from the direct sales platform 1688, originating from manufacturers, reveals that from November 1 to December 12 in 2023, the daily average search volume for military coats on the platform increased by 236% compared to the same period in 2022, with 50% increase in the number of buyers. Similarly, during this period, the daily average search volume for floral cotton-padded jackets increased by 163% and the number of buyers increased by 49%.

The budget-friendly nature of military coats and floral cotton-padded jackets stands in stark contrast to the high costs of luxury down jackets. College students opting for these alternatives highlight their practical budget considerations, underscoring the ongoing importance of affordability within this specific demographic. This dynamic provides insights into the diverse preferences shaping China’s down jacket market evolution.

Bosideng and Peacebird: two top players in China’s down jacket market

The winter budget for Chinese consumers buying insulated outerwear is increasing, drawing in new luxury brands like Moncler and Canada Goose, alongside progress from Canadian brands like Mackage and Moose Knuckles. Two domestic players, Bosideng and Peacebird, have emerged as influential forces with unique strategies.

From setbacks to spotlight: Bosideng’s revival with influencers and stylists

Bosideng, a prominent player in the Chinese outwear market, faced challenges in 2016 with a recorded turnover of about RMB 5.8 billion and a loss of 8% compared to the previous year. However, after a significant overhaul in 2017, including rebranding and repositioning in the Chinese market, Bosideng’s revenues continued to grow. The six months ending in September 2023 reported significant growth in both sales and profits. Sales surged by 20.9% to reach RMB 7.48 billion, contributing to a 25.1% increase in profits.

Bosideng improved its reputation by inviting western influencers, such as Chiara Ferragni, to its runway shows during Milan and New York Fashion Weeks. Moreover, the brand collaborated with renowned stylists, trying to position itself in the mid-to-high-end range. For example, it strategically partnered with the former creative director of Hermès, Jean-Paul Gaultier, to introduce an exclusive limited-edition series. This collaboration has positioned the domestic brand as a preferred choice for young local shoppers in the luxury segment.

China's down jacket market
Source: Bosideng Official Website, Bosideng x Gaultier collection

Empowering elegance: Peacebird’s feminist narrative in Chinese fashion

In contrast, China’s fashion group Peacebird opted for a different strategy, instead. The group includes eight distinct brands: Peacebird Women, Peacebird Men, Mini Peace, LED’IN, Peacebird Home, Petit Avril, Coppolella, and Material Girl. In particular, Peacebird Women attracted Gen Z consumers by leveraging feminist values. In 2020, the brand launched a Mulan collection encouraging women to break traditional rules just like the character Hua Mulan, while in 2021, Peacebird slogan exhorted girls to be themselves. Moreover, in order to attract Chinese young consumers, the Ningbo-based company collaborated with several KOLs, reduced the time lapse between new launches, and employed nostalgia marketing techniques.

Beyond warmth: the fashionable resurgence in China’s down jacket market

  • Chinese consumers’ preference for puffer jackets is reshaping the market, with a focus on higher quality and attention to stuffing materials and fabrics.
  • Beyond mere functionality, down jackets are seen as fashionable statements, particularly among Gen Z.
  • Collaborations with designers and artists have elevated down jackets into cultural expressions, seamless blending with current fashion trends.
  • Despite the allure of high-end options, certain demographics, such as college students, favor affordable alternatives, highlighting the diverse landscape of consumer choices.
  • Bosideng and Peacebird are two promising Chinese outwear brands. After getting through tough times in the second half of 2010s, Bosideng managed to undergo a deep transformation that boosted the company growth and repositioned it on the market. Peacebird, instead, is attempting to catch Gen Z women’s attention by conveying feminist messages and leveraging young Chinese people’s nostalgia.