guochao, fad, trendy products, Forbidden City, fashion brands, Chinese elements, designs, Chinese brands, sports brands, Chinese-made products, lion dance

Turning the Tide

Fashion with Chinese elements surges, but is it just a fad?

“The quality of work does not differ between countries…Everything has to be good on an international level, and only then will we be able to stand proudly and say ‘this is made in China,’” Hong Kong entertainer-turned-designer Edison Chen declared in a speech at New York University in 2017, calling on domestic culture and fashion brands to abandon the “good enough for China” attitude.

This is considered to be the starting point of guochao (国潮), or “China tide,” a fad for domestically made fashion and other trendy products (潮 is also a Chinese term for “fashionable”). Following Chen’s speech, 2018 became known as the “first year of guochao,” and “Made in China” has become a new trend in the Chinese fashion industry.

Traditional culture had been infused successfully into modern products before. The 2016 documentary Masters in Forbidden City, which depicted the artisans who restore relics in the ancient palace, significantly boosted the sales of souvenirs. Young consumers were suddenly clamoring for the Forbidden City lipsticks collection, inspired by the red color of the palace walls; handmade action figures of the Yongle Emperor of the Ming dynasty (1368 – 1644), which wear sunglasses and can rap; and the “Forbidden City Meow,” a series of figurines modeled on the palace’s stray cats.

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Turning the Tide is a story from our issue, “You and AI.” To read the entire issue, become a subscriber and receive the full magazine. Alternatively, you can purchase the digital version from the App Store.


He Yingzi is a contributing writer at The World of Chinese.

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