On China’s largest online marketplace Taobao, there is a top-rated store which buyers find feasts the eyes but starves the stomach. It is not a store that sells appealing and delicious snacks, but a qipao store, featuring original design known as Momo Qipao (茉茉旗袍).
Qipao, the widely known Chinese traditional clothing, was originally introduced by the Manchurians in the Qing Dynasty (1616-1911), before the Qing the Han Chinese wore what was known as Hanfu (汉服). The modernized qipao was once the everyday wear of Chinese women in the early 1900s, and had even been a symbol of Shanghai lady.
The storekeeper Momo, who chose the store title after her own nick-name, has been feeling her way to find her niche.
“Someday, after doing the same job for several years, I suddenly felt lost and realize this was not my desired lifestyle. Such a feeling of loss has been perplexing me since last year. I recalled that my schooldays dream was to open up a store and make friends with customers who share a similar taste with me. This year, I finally resumed my courage and returned to the starting point of my dream,” writes Momo on the front page of her store.
In early 2011, the idea of making qipao first occurred to her, after noting that the style was only for special occasions or specific individuals, including the formal dress celebrities wear at international events, the wedding dress of ordinary people, and the work suits of waitresses.
“In the eyes of the public, qipao is no longer what one would wear in daily life, but why can’t it be?” That April, she sought advice from her old clients in an online group and unexpectedly received about 400 enthusiastic responses. After preparing for one month, her team launched its first group of originally designed qipao.
Unlike most of the Taobao stores that prioritize profit above all else, Momo is more concerned about finding consumers who appreciate her work.
Rather than making silken qipao, which requires special care, Momo chooses to use linen cloth, which is easy to treat and approachable in price. She embraces the principle that “fashion is made to wear, rather than hanging high in the window for admirers to marvel but being intimated by its prohibitive price.”
Moreover, dyeing linen produces a “vivid” but not “loud” color effect, which distinguishes Momo’s qipao from a costume too gaudy to wear on casual occasions. “Most people are afraid of wearing too eye-catching clothes in daily life”, said Momo, “Though linen is more easily to get crumpled, the material has a comfortable feel, as if an intimate old friend whom you feel easy to get along with.”
The feeling is echoed by Mo Fen (茉粉, abbreviated from Momo’s fans), who address themselves this way and spare no compliments to share their excitement, “Momo’s qipao carries my memory of the old days”, “it seems like an old piece of clothes that I have worn for years and have grown deep affection for”.
Indeed, Momo’s qipao has become so hot that buyers virtually “scramble for the item” (抢货) by racing to bid. Several of the most popular styles are sold out of stock in minutes, leaving a lot more buyers who are just a moment late to sigh regretfully for a missed piece.
Each style of qipao has a unique name carefully chosen by Momo, out of the intention to “help buyers better understand and appropriately choose the color that suits them best.”
‘Morning Warbler’ style qipao
Most of the names precisely catch the features of design, for example, “Aegean Sea” (爱琴海) refers to a color that gradually turns from sky blue to sapphire blue, and “Monet” (莫奈) is a pattern associated with the oil painting of Monet’s water lily. A few names even imply a literary connotation, such as “Morning Warbler” (晓莺), which indicates a line of the Tang poem “A Spring Morning”—“This spring morning in bed I’m lying, Not to awake till birds are crying” (春眠不觉晓，处处闻啼鸟).
Apart from a great variety of colors, Momo’s qipao also ranges from knee length to ankle length. In terms of properly wearing qipao, Momo gave a tip which can be phrased as “more upper body exposed, then less lower body exposed, and vice versa” (上露下少露，下露上少露).
For those who are not confident with their figure, Momo adds a key point, that is, whether qipao fits or not has more to do with a person’s manner than with her looks or shape. “I believe that most people will naturally behave like a lady when they put on qipao,” she said.
So far, Momo has over 730,000 fans of her store and more than 13,000 fans on her Weibo. Every day, fans keep popping up to post their qipao photo show and @ Momo to ask for judgment. She agrees that she particularly feels satisfied with the sense of being needed by increasing qipao lovers.
For Momo, the career has inspired her life philosophy, “What I have learned is, never just make do with life, for it’s so wonderful to have a dream to pursue.”
The Momo Qipao store
The Momo Qipao Weibo page
The YoyBuy store
Images courtesy of Momo Qipao