For women who Dare to Bare
Updated: 2011-06-07 11:23
By Wang Zhuoqiong (China Daily)
The traditional, conservative one-piece swimsuit is being abandoned in favor of the bikini. Wang Zhuoqiong reports from Beijing.
For women there are two essentials for the beach this summer - a bikini and sunblock. For 22-year-old college student Liu Fang, a trip to Sanya, Hainan in South China, means packing six bikinis. "A bikini for a beach vacation is like an evening gown for a banquet," Liu said. "They may use little fabric but they deserve the same respect as any other clothes."
Her resort wear, mostly purchased on Taobao.com, is of various colors and themes and accessorized with flip-flops, sunglasses and hats.
Growing up with a one-piece swimsuit that covered almost everything from neck to thigh, Liu is thrilled by the current swimwear options.
Liu is one of a rising number of young Chinese women abandoning the conservative one-piece swimsuit in favor of the bikini.
"Chinese women are becoming more and more fashionable," said Amy Fu of Hennes & Mauritz (H&M) communications department. "They are open to all kinds of swimwear with good design. Fashion is global, so the bikini is as popular in China as it is in other countries," she said.
The move from more to less is also shaping the local swimwear manufacturing industry, experts said.
"Though the one-piece swimsuit still takes up the dominant share of our sales, it has been, and continues to be, an inevitable trend that the bikini will take over as the major force in the market," said Peng Danrong, general manager of Hosa Group, a leading swimwear designer and manufacturer in China. The brand has more than 1,000 stores across the country.
Peng said one of the factors behind the popularity of the bikini was the growing trend for entertainment and leisure water activities rather than sports.
But what is more significant, he said, is that urban Chinese young women have gradually understood the difference between lingerie and a bikini.
"Many Chinese people are confused by the two," Peng said. "As a result, women feel awkward and shy when they appear in public wearing a bikini."
He added: "Now, more women and men are aware of the fact that wearing a bikini is nothing intimate and not about exposing yourself to total strangers."
Still, for women living in many second- or third-tier cities, exposing so much skin is still considered daring.
"It is very much up to the place," said Dong Jinxian, a 50-year-old private business owner in Taiyuan, capital of North China's Shanxi province, who traveled to Australia with her daughter in February.
"I found it perfectly comfortable walking in a bikini on the beach in Australia where everybody else is wearing the same. But I prefer a one-piece swimsuit in the swimming pools here."
Some of the market senses that vibe and is responding to it. Swimwear for Chinese consumers is designed to provide a sense of security and comfort.
Peng said their bikini designs for the Chinese market have a bottom piece that covers more skin than bikinis for the West and the upper piece has lifting to highlight the breast area.
However, Fu from H&M said: "We offer more or less the same design in all 40 markets that we are in. We do not make design special bikinis for China."
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