Chinese women’s swimwear preferences

Ruffley, slimming and modest, what social listening taught us about Chinese women’s swimwear preferences

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As part of China’s State Council national strategic policy, the target was set for the gross output of the sport industry to generate approximately USD 815 billion per annum by 2025. Coupled with swimming as a new status symbol in China, the question of Chinese women’s swimwear preferences is important for swimwear brands who understand the opportunity of expanding into the Chinese market.

Social Listening: Chinese women’s swimwear preferences

Sun protection

Even though swimwear is commonly associated with being out in the sun to get a tan, Chinese Swimwear focuses on minimising sun exposure.

Video on Xiaohongshu, user introduces swimwear she recommends Chinese women’s swimwear preferences
Video on Xiaohongshu, user introduces swimwear she recommends

On Xiaohongshu, a giant in both social media and e-commerce, a video with almost 4000 likes featured a popular Xiaohongshu user introducing the swimwear that she recommends. Of particular note is a long-sleeved top that had relatively minimal exposure to the sun. The user promoted this piece as ensuring that the wearer did not need to fear about ‘turning dark even on trips to the beach’. 

Ruffles and Florals prominent in Chinese Swimwear

Swimwear that Chinese women wear also heavily features ruffles and floral prints. This is a common trend that is can be seen from Zhihu and Xiaohongshu posts. The ‘feminine’ aspect of Chinese Swimwear is evident. It appears that the ‘girly’ look is favoured over other styles.

Zhihu, a post response to the question “Any good-looking swimwear to recommend” Chinese women’s swimwear preferences

Zhihu, a post response to the question “Any good-looking swimwear to recommend”
Xiaohongshu, a post recommending good-looking swimwear Chinese women’s swimwear preferences
Xiaohongshu, a post recommending good-looking swimwear

Swimwear with a ‘slimming effect’

Chinese women also tend to choose swimwear that has a supposed ‘slimming effect’. On Xiaohongshu, it is a common trend for users recommending Chinese swimwear to emphasise their slimming effects. For instance, in a video, a user highlights that the one-piece blue and white swimwear can help hide stomach and thigh fat.

Places where Chinese women desire slimming effects include not only the stomach but the thighs. Hence, many prefer swimsuits that include a skirt-like bottom to hide the upper thighs.

Xiaohongshu, users introduce swimwear recommended Chinese women’s swimwear preferences
Xiaohongshu, users introduce swimwear recommended

Understanding Chinese culture to successfully enter the market for Chinese Swimwear

‘Taboo’ around showing too much skin

There is generally a taboo around showing too much skin in Chinese culture. For instance, there is still debate regarding what should be the appropriate skirt length. Such standards of what is socially acceptable has also transferred to influencing the Chinese women’s swimwear preferences.

Looking through the ‘Hot’ section of Xiaohongshu, bikinis are rarely, if at all, featured. Brands looking to expand their swimwear collections to China should thus shift the focus away from two-piece bikinis. It could be helpful to think of Swimwear that Chinese women wear as corresponding more to ‘summer clothes’ suitable for entering the water.  

Xiaohongshu, A general view of swimwear that is popular among Chinese women Chinese women’s swimwear preferences
Xiaohongshu, A general view of swimwear that is popular among Chinese women 

Chinese generally like taking photos

Chinese are known for enjoying photo-taking, especially when they go on vacation. This coincides with more Chinese going to the beach. These two phenomena have implications on the type of swimwear that Chinese women wear. On one hand, this means that Chinese swimwear should look photo-ready. On another hand, this also presents an opportunity for swimwear brands to market their accessories to Chinese women. This is especially how the Chinese fashion accessory market is facing unprecedented growth. Brands hoping to expand into the Chinese market can thus also explore marketing accessories such as beach bags, hats, or even jewellery as beach-specific complements to completing any given look. 

Athletic swimwear focuses on prestige

The average well-to-do Chinese consumer tends to take prestige into significant consideration when making purchases. This focus on prestige also influences the Chinese swimwear market. Arena, a globally renowned swimsuit brand which is also a go-to swimwear brand in China, has integrated prestige into its brand’s marketing strategy in China.

It is interesting to note a key difference between their international website and their Chinese website. Their Chinese website has a specific section titled ‘World Athlete Map’, which shows famous sportspeople who wear Arena. This section is notably absent from Arena’s international website. Brands hoping to enter the market for Chinese Swimwear should thus also understand the importance of attaching prestige to their brand. This could be helpful in standing out in a market saturated with various swimwear brands.

Arena, comparison between international website and Chinese website Chinese women’s swimwear preferences
Arena, comparison between international website and Chinese website

Advertising swimwear in China

KOLs influence on the swimwear that Chinese women wear

Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs), one of the most crucial promotion channels in China, also have an essential role to play in the Chinese swimwear market. KOLs film short videos, or even livestream themselves trying on and modelling swimwear that viewers can immediately purchase from an embedded link in the video.

What is especially notable is the detail that KOLs dive into regarding swimwear. While filming herself wearing a white ruffled, V-neck one-piece swimsuit, the KOL 張想想 Arisa-aa described how the design would result in shoulders looking flatter and longer, hence causing the wearer to look taller. She then further elaborated on how the subsequent effect would make the face and shoulders appear smaller. Such a detailed description of swimwear by KOLs appeals to Chinese women, through reassuring them in a personable manner of how the swimwear advertised could target perceived physical imperfections.

Video on Xiaohongshu, KOL introduces swimwear she recommends Chinese women’s swimwear preferences

Video on Xiaohongshu, KOL introduces swimwear she recommends

What our social listening taught us about Chinese women’s swimwear preferences

  • Chinese women highly value swimwear that shields from the sun, swimwear with ruffles and florals, and swimwear that produces a ‘slimming effect’.
  • The role of Chinese culture in influencing the swimwear that Chinese women wear is also evident. The ‘taboo’ around showing too much skin has resulted in two-piece bikinis being barely worn by Chinese women.
  • Additionally, as the Chinese generally enjoy photo-taking, this provides an opportunity for brands to present their accessories as complements to swimwear in order to have the perfect photo.
  • With the emphasis on prestige in Chinese culture, international swimwear brands hoping to expand to China should also keep in mind how to distinguish themselves prestige-wise from their competitors.
  • Finally, understanding the specificities of advertising to the Chinese market, brands should also consider engaging KOLs to effectively promote the marketable nuances of their swimwear specific to Chinese women’s concerns.

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